Managing Absence

Everybody is absent from time to time, is ill or has personal emergencies. Expected absences are part of normal day to day and most firms can cope with these, even if at times they are inconvenient.

But what do you do when the absence starts to become a problem?

There is always something that can be done, however, some key questions need to be answered before you do anything.

These questions include:

  • What is the reason for the absence?
  • How long have they been off?
  • How much longer are they likely to be off?
  • How frequent have the absences been?
  • What does your policy say about this type of absence?
  • What are the legal requirements?
  • What have you done in the past?

Key considerations:

Have a conversation

As their employer you need to understand the situation in so far as it affects their ability to do their role. It can sometimes be difficult to do this without a face to face meeting, but this should always be the goal. It is important to show you are a caring employer, but also that you take these issues seriously and have an expectation that your employees will keep you up to date with their current situation and will not take advantage of your caring nature.

Policies, contract and handbook

These provide a reference point for your policies on absence, dependants, sickness, holidays and other types of absence, giving a framework within which you can operate.

Frequency and duration

Make sure you have all your facts and figures to hand. Follow your firm’s procedures around frequency and duration of absence, particularly relevant to sickness and dependents leave.

Ensure your existing policies and procedures are followed

Your contract and handbook are likely to include the procedure to be followed when absent or off sick, specifically whether or not they need to self certify, and at what point a fit note is required. These together with the frequency and duration information will provide a starting point for the conversation when absence becomes a problem.

Appropriate independent advice

Sickness can be difficult to tackle without a good working knowledge of both the medical condition and the working environment. Getting input from an occupational health professional can be very helpful to assess the medical implications for the environment in which the employee is working.


This depends upon current legislation and your policy and practice. There are some absences for which you are required to pay, eg SSP, maternity, otherwise unless your policy provides an entitlement to paid time off you need to apply management discretion. Some firms allow time off but unpaid, others are more flexible and will pay the employee but expect hours to be made up.

Return to work interview

These are proven to have a marked impact on absence of all kinds. A conversation with a line manager, of which a note is kept, on return to work provides evidence:

  • You have noticed the absence
  • You care whether your staff turn up for work
  • Upon which you can make decisions upon any action to take.

If you would like more information on this topic contact Athena Legal on:

Tel 07977 932551 or Email [email protected]

Any Questions?

To find out more about Products and Services, please complete the form below.