Are “light duties” the easy way out?

Are “light duties” the easy way out?

I was speaking to a company the other day and they asked a worrying question.

“We’ve had an account manager on light duties since December last year because he has shoulder problems. When can we reduce his salary?”

I almost fell off my chair.

They had continued to pay full salary for someone only doing a part time role.

They hadn’t gone to the GP to find out what light duties were allowed or not, they were just basing it on the Fit Note, which, as we all know, is brief to unusable, usually.

They had also not put a deadline on the light duties so that they could review it.

They hadn’t done any of this because they didn’t think they could and were afraid to ask.

What could they have done in regards to light duties?

Had they spoken to an HR expert they would then have been able to save at least 5 months of those the 7 months’ salary they paid the account manager.

There is a danger regarding possible disability discrimination, which is why we highly recommend dealing with each situation on a case-by-case basis.

If you have the clause in your contract stating you will dismiss if sickness absence is unacceptable, remove it, and certainly don’t refer to it.

We can dismiss if we need to, but a few hoops have to be jumped through first!

They made the mistake, but I don’t want you to make it too, so for absolute clarity, here’s what the company should have done:

    • Immediately requested a GP’s report at the beginning of December. This would have been back by mid January.
    • While waiting for the report, they should have sat down with the employee and agreed with him what he could and couldn’t do. They should also have agreed the reduced salary at that stage.
  • When the GP’s report came back, they should have met with the employee to agree a phased increase in tasks to get them back up to 100% over the next month. All the time paying the reduced wages to reflect the reduced work.
  • Set a deadline for the employee to be back at 100% and reviewed it on a weekly basis.
  • If the employee was not showing signs of being able to get back to 100% by the deadline, they should have had a “Some Other Substantial Reason” meeting with him to discuss options of continuing on reduced salary, other roles in the company or dismissal. This meeting would have been formal and he would have been allowed to bring someone with him.
  • By the end of March there would have been clarity about everything, rather than asking at the end of June “what can we do?”

We are always able to help with long term illness, light duties and phased returns.

My advice?  Deal with it now, don’t let it drag on for months and waste a load of money, especially when it’s so easily avoidable!

And companies today need to have every advantage they can in the current business environment!

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