Get in Touch Menu

Long-term absentees and sick pay

27 June 2008

We are often consulted about long-term absentees and whether they are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

One particular concern is whether employers should continue to pay full sick pay during periods of absence when the contractual limit has been exceeded.

The concern hinges on the fact that employers have obligations under the Act to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ease working conditions for disabled employees. What constitutes ‘reasonable’ will always depend on the circumstances but on this particular point we now seem to have a clear authority as a result of the decision in O’Hanlon v Revenue and Customs Commissioners.

Kathleen O’Hanlon suffered from clinical depression and was therefore ‘disabled’ for the purposes of the DDA. She had long absences from work and had exhausted her sick pay entitlement.  She claimed that she should receive full pay for the whole period because that amounted to a ‘reasonable adjustment’. By not making the adjustment, the employer was subjecting her to a discriminatory disadvantage.

She argued her case through the employment tribunal, the employment appeals tribunal and finally the Court of Appeal, all of whom rejected her claim.

The ruling shows that there is a sensible limit on what an employer is expected to do in terms of making adjustments.

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

Contact us

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
View profile
Mathew Clayton
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

Mental health & the Equality Act: tips for employers

Employment & business immigration

During Mental Health Awareness Week, employers may be thinking about things they can do to support employees suffering with their mental health. Besides the general duty of care that employers…

Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)

Employment law changes: a 2024 update

Employment & business immigration

Our employment law & business immigration team have put together a useful timeline to help you and your business keep on top of developments throughout the year. For several years,…

Klára Grmelová MGR (LLM Czech)

Navigating the future: protected beliefs in the workplace

Employment & business immigration

Our employment law & business immigration experts look into the challenges employers can face surrounding protected beliefs. In the past few years, we have witnessed a significant rise in employment…

Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
Contact us