Long-Term Absence Capability Procedure

Long-Term Absence Capability Procedure is otherwise known as accessing whether employees are capable to continue work when they return.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


11 August 2018


11 July 2024
2 min read
Long-Term Absence Capability Procedure

Handling an employee who has been on long-term sick is a sensitive issue that must be handled with care.

It could be that the illness is serious and involves an operation and recovery time, or it could be a mental health problem.

On the other hand, you may suspect that an employee is purposely prolonging an illness in order to delay returning to work.

In both scenarios, the employee’s absence can put a strain on the daily running of the business.

Dismissing someone on the grounds of ill-health capability is a difficult decision to make.

Throughout discussions with the employee, they should be aware at what point dismissal becomes an option.


1) Investigate

Normally, an investigation will include monitoring the duration of the employee’s sickness absence and having a discussion with them to determine how long they estimate they will be off sick.

Obtaining a medical report from either the employee’s GP or from an occupational health specialist will be another key consideration.

A medical report is essential to ascertain the seriousness of the employee’s condition.

It is important to ask the medical examiner as many questions as possible so they can provide a thorough and detailed report.

To do this, you will need to obtain the employee’s consent in order to contact their GP.

If an employee does not consent to you contacting their GP or another health professional, then you may be able to make decisions about their future employment based on the information you already have, as well as making reasonable assumptions about their ill health.

2) Hold A Capability Meeting With The Employee

Having a meeting with the employee is necessary to discuss the findings of the medical report, and to see how the employee is currently feeling.

It will also give you an insight as to when the employee expects they will return to work.

You will also be able to discuss any reasonable adjustments that could be made for the employee, to help facilitate their return to work.


3) Are There Any Reasonable Adjustments That Can Be Made?

If the reason for the employee’s absence could be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, then as an employer, you have a legal duty to consider what reasonable adjustments could be made for that employee.

What adjustments can be made will depend upon the employee.

For some, a phased return to work may be best, or spreading some of their duties out to other members of staff may also be helpful for them.

If applicable, you may have to consider an alternative job role for the employee upon their return to work.

This may occur in situations where an employee’s previous role was quite physically demanding, but due to their illness, an office-based role may be more suitable for them.

If after all considerations have been made, and it does not appear likely that the employee will return to work, nor are there any reasonable adjustments that can be made, then you may have to consider dismissing the employee.

If dismissal does appear to be the likely option, then it is essential that you follow a fair process as detailed above.

If an employee brings a claim, it will be essential to show the Tribunal that the process followed was procedurally fair.

Neathouse Partners: Your Trusted Partner

We empower employers across the UK with tailored advice, offering strategic guidance that aligns with business needs and goals.

99.2 %

Customer happiness rating

99.2 %

Customer happiness rating



Qualified experts

Chester Headquarters

Regus House, Chester CH4 9QR

Success stories
Having used Neathouse for some time now, I can highly recommend their services. I always get a quick response from my lawyer, the advice is practical, and I always feel confident that they’re helping us with the correct approach.
Jasmin Bemmelen Head of People and Culture @ Action Tutoring Ltd

Have questions?

Get in touch today

Contact us, and our team will get back to you within 24 hours. We value your questions and are committed to getting them answered quickly.

Get a quote

Hello! I am Nicky

Just fill in the form below with your details, and I will arrange for a member of our team to give you a call.

By clicking, you agree to our Privacy Policy