Absence management

Absence management is often difficult to manage within a workplace, especially long-term sickness. There is also a very close link to welfare and how you support employees during difficult times. The approach that management should follow varies depending on the reasons for the absence, if there is a long-term health condition, and what the organisations policy states. 


Here are a few useful tips that apply in most circumstances:

  • Ensure your absence policy includes clear expectations on what is reasonable in your organisation prior to more formal action being taken. For example, have 10 days absence through sickness in a rolling twelve months.
  • Always have a return-to-work interview following an unplanned absence. This will assist in understanding the reasons for the absence, these can include emergency time off to care for a dependant, sickness, an accident, unauthorised absence etc. Ensuring you complete a return-to-work form to record the conversations and reasons.
  • Take action following the return-to-work meeting, this ranges from noting no further action this occasion, an invite to a hearing, additional welfare support provided, signposting to other organisations, to an Occupational Health referral. You may have also agreed actions that require the employee to do something and update you e.g., putting making a GP appointment. 
  • Ensure consistency of approach with all employees, whereas the type of meetings and actions will vary, adhering to the policy timelines and relevant documentation are key to lower the risk of discrimination.
  • Keep up to date with current legalisation on absence and the obligations on employers to take specific conditions and types of absence into account and update relevant polices accordingly.
  • Use a mix of formal and informal discussions with the employee to keep an open dialogue that will ensure mutual understanding that allows the organisation to provide the required support.
  • If the level of absence is unsustainable consider sanctions, and potentially termination of employment using the absence and/or capability policies. 


Successfully managing absence takes a number of different types of intervention, and adherence to policy and legislation. If you want to find out more or get free support on this area, contact TrustedHR Ltd.

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