In a recent determination of the Employment Relations Authority, an employee had been dismissed following his absence from work for 62 working days over 13 months.  The employee had then raised several personal grievances for matters including unjustified dismissal, bullying, and disclosure of personal information to other employees.

The law in this area is clear that an employer is not bound to hold a job open indefinitely where an employee is no longer able to perform the duties for which they were employed … provided that any decision made in this respect is justifiable.

The Authority determined that all actions taken by the employer (although some were ‘misguided’) were justifiable … the employer had done all that it could as a fair and reasonable employer.  In particular the employer had offered on several occasions to meet with and/or assist the employee, but the employee had refused take up these opportunities.

Medical issues are always very delicate matters … placed in an employment setting they raise a whole new set of concerns and considerations.  In this case, the employer was found to have acted very fairly and compassionately despite the impact the employee’s absences were having on day-to-day operations.

It will not always be the case, however, that an employer will have to wait for over three months of absences before it decides that it cannot hold an employee’s position open … each case should be assessed on its own circumstances.

If you have concerns about absenteeism or the medical capacity of an employee, it is worthwhile assessing your rights and responsibilities as an employer.  For a free initial chat, please call us on (04) 473 6850.