Manage absence and sickness

Absence and sickness policies: what to include


You should develop your absence and sickness policy/procedures in consultation with line managers and workplace representatives.

What should my absence and sickness policy include?

An absence and sickness policy could include the following:

  • When time off might or must be permitted, eg jury service leave and time off for emergencies involving dependants. See allowing time off work.
  • How the worker should notify you if they are ill, or going to be late for work or absent for other unexpected reasons, eg because a dependant has had an accident or fallen ill. It might be helpful to clarify the circumstances when dependants leave would typically be applicable, such as where the reason for absence relates to an emergency situation or unexpected disruption. See parental leave and time off for dependants.
  • When they should submit a medical statement from their doctor or self certify their illness and implications of failure to provide appropriate certification. Note that under statutory sick pay rules, self certification is only required from the fourth day, and a medical statement from the eighth day, of an absence.
  • Details of any methods used to measure absence eg Bradford Factor.
  • An indication of what is deemed unacceptable levels of absence and trigger points for taking action to review.
  • Statutory - and any contractual - sick pay arrangements. This should also be covered in each employee's written statement of employment particulars.
  • The circumstances when absences will be dealt with as a capability issue and the circumstances when absences will be dealt with as a conduct issue.
  • Possible procedures for using the employer's own doctor/medical adviser or the procedure for seeking an employee's consent to obtain a medical report from their GP/medical practitioner.
  • If applicable, the need to attend a return-to-work interview
  • Consequences of not complying with the policy, eg when disciplinary measures will be taken.
  • Who is responsible for keeping attendance records.
  • Reference to any other relevant policies, eg alcohol/drug misuse, health and safety, discipline and grievance, annual leave, maternity/adoption/paternity/parental leave. See staff documents and employment policies.

You may also want to include the following points:

  • If you have good reason to believe an employee is abusing the system, you may begin disciplinary action against them.
  • While you will treat those who fall ill sympathetically, excessive sickness can result in dismissal. For information on dealing with employee illness fairly, see employee absence as a capability issue.

Supporting staff with long-term sickness

There are other options you may want to consider, including:

  • offering a counselling service (or arrange a referral to specialist assistance)
  • setting up rehabilitation programmes for long-term sickness
  • a referral to an occupational health service that can provide useful information regarding staff on long-term sickness absence and support their return to work
  • appointing an absence case manager