Manage absence and sickness

Employee absence as a conduct issue


Persistent short term absence due to illness, where there is no specific medical cause, should be dealt with as a conduct issue and you may wish to take disciplinary action.

Be aware though that sickness, domestic problems or travel difficulties leading to absence or lateness may not necessarily amount to misconduct. Absences relating to an underlying medical condition should be dealt with as a capability issue. Additionally, if the sickness is pregnancy related, you must not take disciplinary action. See employee absence as a capability issue.

Investigations before taking disciplinary action

Prior to taking disciplinary action, you should:

  • review the employee's attendance record
  • meet with the employee to discuss and review their overall attendance record

If there is no reasonable explanation for the absence you may decide to take disciplinary action.

Prior to taking disciplinary action, you could:

  • caution employees that it is a requirement to comply with your absence and sickness policy/procedures and this would include ensuring they phone in at or by a given time each day
  • ensure line managers follow up any unexplained absence

Where employees are finding it difficult to manage home and work responsibilities, consider introducing flexible working arrangements.

Note that eligible employees have the right to request flexible working.

You must consider such requests seriously - see flexible working: the law and best practice.

Taking disciplinary action

The employee should be given an opportunity to improve. Usually warnings, both oral and written, are sufficient.

If the situation does not improve, you may have to consider dismissal, but only as a last resort and after following proper and fair procedures, including the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedures. See disciplinary procedures, hearings and appeals.