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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Employer Guide: What is medical incapacity?

What is it?

Medical incapacity is a term used to describe an individual's inability to work due to a medical condition or illness. This might be a permanent condition, or one that they could recover completely from. Either way, an employer may need to consider this if they cannot work around the employee's condition. But it certainly should not be rushed into!


What should an employer do before considering medical incapacity?

If you are concerned that an employee is not going to be able to return to their role, either for a significant period or indefinitely, before doing anything, an employer should start by considering

  • what their employment agreement says

  • whether the business can operate without them until they can return fully?

  • if they can't, could the role be filled in a casual capacity, by a temp or by another employee for the temporary period that you need the role covered?

Note: We don't recommend replacing them permanently while they are still employed, this could be unlawful!


The medical incapacity process

First and foremost, this is a process! You must consult the employee before making any decisions. The employee needs to know that this could affect their employment as well, so it needs to be a formal and documented process. This process involves knowing

  • what the employee says

  • what their medical experts say

  • if there are alternative hours or roles that they could, and would, do?

... before you make a decision!


As with any process, there can be a lot of risk if you get it wrong so we recommend that you seek advice before starting it.

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