As any business owner or manager knows, you should have a rigorous procedure in place for when an employee needs to contact you to inform you of their absence. This should ensure that any trends of absence can be identified and will help to keep accurate records, important to records like payroll for example.
It is normal for employees to be required to report their absence within one hour of their usual starting time and it is good practice to ensure that employees talk to their line manager when phoning in to report their absence. If the line manager is not available when the employee telephones it is good practice for them to return the call to the employee when it is convenient.
Short Term Absence
If an employee is absent for seven days or more, they are required to provide their employer with a fit note from a medical practitioner. Employees can return to work before a fit note comes to an end, if they feel well enough.
Long Term Absence
In this definition ‘long term’ means that the illness has lasted for 12 months, is likely to last for 12 months or is terminal. You should look to understand the employee’s illness and seek information about:
- The nature of the illness
- The likely length of the illness
- The likelihood of the employee returning to work
- The support that the employee will need if they do return to work.
You must also ensure that the employee understands what payments they will receive whilst absent. If the employee is absent for a lengthy period of time it is likely that entitlement to company sick pay or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will expire.
It is good practice to keep in touch with the employee during a period of absence and the line manager should carry out a return-to-work interview with all employees after their absence, even if the absence has been for only one day.
Persistent absence can be addressed by using the disciplinary process. It would be usual for this to be dealt with through a series of warnings. Before any disciplinary action is taken it is good practice to discuss the situation with the employee to determine if they have any problems inside or outside of work that are causing them to struggle to attend work. It is important to keep thorough records so that any trends of absence can be identified.
Managers are crucial to the operation of an effective absence policy. They need to be trained in company absence policies and procedures, relevant legislative and disciplinary issues including disability discrimination, managing fit notes, the role of occupational health services and other proactive measures to support staff health and well-being, and communications skills to encourage employees to discuss any problems openly at an early stage.
If you require support in this subject or require an effective absence policy, contact our team or CIPD accredited HR Consultants today.
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