The essentials of effective employee absence management

Moira Grassick

August 12 2021

One of your employees calling in sick or saying they can’t make it in but not specifying why can not only be frustrating but disruptive.

While a sick or stress leave of absence, or an employee requesting an extended break for another health reason isn’t uncommon, it can upset the flow of your business. But how you react to each case of absence can make all the difference.

To find out how best you can handle staff absences, read on…

Put an absence policy in place

First things first, your employee absence management policy. This policy should outline how sickness-related absences will be dealt with and should specify what period of time forms:

  • Short-term absence.
  • Long-term absence.
  • Unauthorised absence.

When your absence policy is complete, share it with your employees. Doing so ensures your employees know how each instance of absence will be handled and what procedure will be followed.

Furthermore, having an absence policy in place will ensure consistency. This is crucial as it protects you from any employee claims.


How to reduce sickness absence in the workplace

Return to work interview

One of the simplest ways of reducing sickness absence is to conduct a ‘return to work’ interview. This conversation will bring to light any issues an employee has, whether that’s personal or work-related. It may mean you alter their work hours, allow them to work from home, or take time off for medical appointments.

Record keeping

Record keeping is another useful practice. The benefit of tracking employee absences is that patterns will appear. For instance, does one of your employees always miss the Friday of a Bank Holiday? Or say they’re feeling unwell the Monday they’re due in after a week off?

Monitoring absences will make patterns easier to spot and provides you with proof if you need to speak to the employee. In the end, the reoccurring absences may be something an employee needs help with, so approach the situation cautiously.


Lastly, but by no means of the least importance, is communication. Whether it’s a short- or long-term absence, it’s important that you reach out to the absent individual. You can do so by phone, email, and in some cases, a home visit. Getting in touch will give you an insight into their illness and how long they think they’ll be absent for. It will also help you prepare for their return, the kind of preparation that will put both of your minds at ease.

As you can see, managing long-term sickness absences, or any leave of absence doesn’t have to be complicated. Just approach each case individually, assess the situation, and help your employee where you can.

Free Download: Long-term Sick Leave

What about dismissal due to sickness absence?

In extreme cases, such as long-term sickness, dismissal for absence may be considered. 

If you do decide to go down the dismissal route, you’ll need to show that the procedure used was fair and reasonable. Failure to follow fair procedures could leave your business open to a claim for unfair dismissal.

When dismissing an employee because of medically certified incapacity, certain criteria must be met, including:

  • You have all material facts concerning the employee’s sickness.
  • You must have given the employee enough notice that their capability to fulfil their role is being investigated and may lead to dismissal.
  • You must have given the employee the option to influence your decision.
  • You must be seen to offer reasonable accommodations for the employee to return to work.

In certain cases, the employee’s long-term sickness may have been the result of work activities. In this event, it’s still possible that this may lead to dismissal which may require specialist advice.

Absence management software

Our absence management app BrightHR is the perfect tool for tracking staff sickness days, attendance at work, and more. BrightHR allows you to:

  • Record an absence with ease and instantly spot when someone takes too much sick leave.
  • Scan fit notes, self-certification forms and hospital letters with your phone into your unlimited storage space.
  • Arrange cover and update senior staff or managers from anywhere.
  • Get push notifications to remind you to check how someone’s recovery is going, so you can prepare well in advance for when someone’s due back at work.

Book your free demo of BrightHR today to discover how it can benefit your business.

Looking for further advice on managing staff absences?

Understanding how to manage absence effectively ensures your business can respond as quickly and strongly as possible to any unexpected situations.

So, for further guidance on how best to manage staff absences so that they don’t upset your business operations, speak to one of our HR experts now on 0818 923 923.

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