An allegation of misconduct i.e. met with immediate sickness absence, what do you do?
- Adjust do not delay - it is not true that employees can't be disciplined if they're off sick or don't show. Their absence may be because of a genuine illness or perhaps a plain refusal to face up to the issue. Either way, the disciplinary process doesn't have to come to a halt if the employee isn't there but you will need to consider the facts carefully and come to a reasonable decision on how to proceed. Complete as much of the process as you can in the employee's absence, for example conducting investigatory interviews with witnesses and collecting all relevant documentation.
- Consider medical evidence - what do you need to know? If the employee is claiming to be sick, medical opinion is useful to confirm whether he or she is fit to attend the meeting (unfit for work might not mean unfit to meet) and what, if any, reasonable adjustments could be made to facilitate his or her attendance.
- A resolution might help not hinder recovery - stress of the situation itself may be behind the absence, in which case, it's in everyone's interest to get a resolution speedily. You might want to offer to hold the meeting closer to or at the employee's home, or accept a written representation.
- A decision may be reached in absentia but need to explain and justify - in the continuing absence of an employee, you may conclude that a decision will be made on all the evidence available; in this case you should let the employee know.
In any event be flexible and reasonable and give the employee every opportunity to participate in the process and give his/her representation (either in person or in writing) before making a decision.