Rolling sickness absence policies - are they discriminatory?

Hi everyone. Just wondering if anyone has experience of challenging the application of a rolling sickness policy to someone under the Equality Act? I’m trying to establish if applying this when someone is off work due to their disability (as MS is defined under the Act, whether or not we consider ourselves ‘disabled’) discriminates unfairly as we are possibly more likely to need longer off.

It was a new one on me when I discovered that my employer looks at the amount of time off sick per twelve month period without that period being limited to, for example, Jan to Dec or April - March. However, looking up online I find that this is another commonly used HR policy adopted from the USA… Meaning that the 3 months I’ve just had to have off due to acute relapse is ALL UNPAID!

I have a meeting at work on Monday so if anyone knows anything about this I would really appreciate your help. Thanks!


a rolling 12 month policy isn’t discriminatory as is seen on the whole by some as a fairer system.

whether it benefits people with long term conditions is open to discussion.

i would hope employers would allow some leeway for illnesses covered under the equalities act. Whether salary is paid should be covered under the employers terms & conditions.

if you are in a union I would seek their guidance.

best of luck.


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My understanding is that they are not deemed automatically unfair (although the TUC would like them to be), but they might be deemed unfair if applied in a way inconsistent with an employer’s obligations under law (‘reasonable adjustments’ etc). Legal obligations always trump anything else.



This where I world go, a “reasonable adjustment” to request would be to exempt from the policy due to the disability.

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Dustybear, here’s a good setting out of the legal position.


Hello everyone

It’s been a while since I’ve been on the forum but I have been reading posts and some of them have been very helpful.

I have experienced this where I work.

Last year during the summer and the temperature was particularly high, I was unable to work due to not being able to control my body temperature!!! I telephoned my work each day and went back to work on my next scheduled shift (a couple of days later).

I arrived for my shift promptly only to be told my shift had been covered by my line manager as they hadn’t heard from me. I mentioned that if I was going to be off for longer I would have continued to telephone in each day. Anyway I completed a return to work form, gave it to my manager and decided that, as I was there, I would work.

At the end of that month when my salary was paid in, I noticed that I hadn’t been paid sick pay for the weekend I was off because I had accumulated “scatter days sickness” which is highlighted on the company HR system and can be refused sick pay at the managers discretion.

I was dx’d with RRMS in June 2012 and have always been open and honest with my employer regarding my illness. I work 2 days a week now because of debilitating fatigue, joint pain etc etc etc (you get my drift) but my employer is not particularly sympathetic (strange that I work in a nursing home too).

My employers “reasonable adjustment” was to allow me to eat my lunch in the filing room as I am unable to manage stairs without risk of falling.

Recently I had to take a days annual leave as I was being admitted to hospital for my first dose of Gilenya and was hooked up to monitors all day. My employer was reluctant to put this as a hospital admission (sick day) (even though it said so on the letter) and they quoted the paragraph “if you are unable to attend …”. Those of you who have been on the waiting list for Gilenya will agree that once that letter arrives, you don’t want to change it as you’ve waited for it so long.

I am a member of Unite so will be contacting them to get some advice as I’m sure they are unable to do that if an employee is “registered disabled” (as I am - blue badge holder, DLA recipient, etc etc), as well as Dustybear’s comment about MS being listed on the Equality Act.

Take care

Pen xx

Thanks everybody for your replies and advice. I had to really fight my corner to have my RRMS understood and am in the process of returning to work part-time after an acute relapse. I’m still looking into this and will update here when I have more to add.