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Medical Incapacity

When researching for this blog on the process of working through a Medical Incapacity situation, I originally thought a flowchart would be a good way to explain the process - everyone loves a flow chart, right?

But I soon found out it’s just not that simple….

By definition, Medical Incapacity sounds pretty straight forward "when an employee is no longer able to do their job due to medical illness or injury.” Or as EMA states “an employee’s inability to fulfil their contractual obligations either because of illness or injury.”

But in reality, there is a lot to be considered and the duty of acting in ‘good faith’ really comes into play here.  Some aspects to consider are:

  • The company’s ability to carry on operations- can this role be filled by someone else while the employee recovers, or is this a role that is critical to the business?
  • The length of the incapacity (to date and the prognosis for the future)
  • Will the employee be able to do their original job again e.g. is the incapacity intermittent or on-going?
  • Has the employee been given a reasonable amount of time to recover (according to their individual circumstances, their Individual Employment Agreement and the impact on the company)?
  • How long has the employee worked for the company?
  • How much sick leave does the employee have?

It is essential that the employer follows fair process and considers each case for its individual factors.

Fair Process is Key:

  1. Give reasonable opportunity for the person to recover.
  2. Communicate and consult with the employee from the beginning, be sure to let the employee know the possible impact of your enquiries.  As mentioned, it is important to act in good faith; not make any hasty decisions and involve the employee in the process as much as possible.          At all meetings, a support person or representative should be encouraged to attend.  Try to conduct meetings in person as much as possible; or via Zoom/Teams.
  3. Discuss present and future prognosis.
  4. Seek written consent to obtain medical information and supporting evidence from a registered medical practitioner.  This will provide further information on which to base a decision.
  5. Consider the alternatives, such as a gradual return to work or reduced hours if able
  6. Consider operational effects of the incapacity and how long the business can fairly accommodate the absence (could temporary staff cover for the employee in the meantime for example)
  7. Adhere to you company’s policies and procedures, such as Individual Employment Agreements; Code of Conduct and employment legislation.
  8. Ensure all meetings are documented with copies provided to your employee
  9. Seek external assistance if required for advice and support with documentation.

At HR Connect our team of experienced HR Consultants have the skills to help guide you through this process. 

Get in touch via 0800 131 557, email admin@hrconnect.co.nz or click HERE to complete an enquiry form.


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