2. Understand the cause of the absence:
The employee’s absence could be caused by any number of causes including
- An underlying condition that flares up from time to time
- An unusually high, but genuine vulnerability to cold, flu etc
- Personal or family problems
Keeping an open mind about the employee’s absence rather than jumping to the conclusion that the employee is taking time off without good reason. You need to understand the root cause of the absence – without knowing this, you won’t know what steps to take to solve it!
3. Discuss the sickness with the employee:
You need to clearly and sympathetically discuss the frequency and stated reasons with the employee to understand what is causing the absence – if it’s work related, can you resolve it?
4. Monitor short term absence
Remind the employee of what action is required if they are off sick. Managers should also carry out return to work interviews with the employee, and this in itself often becomes a deterrent to casual absence as the employee knows that absence is taken seriously and they will have to account to their manager for each absence.
The return to work interview is informal but should be taken seriously and is more than just a casual chat. The idea is to establish the basic cause of the absence, including understanding if the employee saw a GP, but not ask intrusive medical questions. Notes should be made of the discussion too. Where the employee is off for up to 1 week, they should also complete a self certification form – this is for all absences – no exceptions!
5. Carry out a thorough absence review
Where the employee’s absences continue and pass a defined number of days or events off in a set period, the line manager should review the absence record to look for patterns (eg Mondays and Fridays) and arrange a further meeting with the employee to check the facts and assess if there any underlying factors.
Appropriate action should then be taken as required, including referral to medical experts and setting an action plan in place to reduce absence.
6. Manage any absences not deemed to be ‘genuine’
If this is the case the manager should put these doubts directly to the employee in a factual way so they can give their side of the story – no accusations should be made unless there is evidence to this effect. If the manager has a reasonable view that the absence is still not genuine, an investigation should be undertaking and disciplinary procedure followed as appropriate.
7. Follow your own formal absence procedures
If informal measures have not led to an improvement in the employee's attendance, it may be that formal procedures need to be instigated. This will be appropriate when the employee's absences have become excessive, where they are beginning to cause serious disruption or dissatisfaction or where attendance has not improved following informal action. You should then carry out the appropriate internal procedures. Typically this would include inviting the employee to a meeting; hearing both sides; taking any medical information into account; delivering a formal warning if required.
It can be appropriate to issue a warning even where the employee's absences have all been for genuine reasons of ill health as the warning is for unsatisfactory attendance, and not on account of ill health.
8. Dismiss fairly on grounds of unsatisfactory performance
If, following a series of formal warnings, the employee's attendance has remained at a level that is clearly unsatisfactory, you could dismiss the employee fairly. It is usual for two or three formal warnings to be given before dismissal is contemplated.
Dismissal should not, of course, be undertaken lightly and should normally be a last resort after all other possible courses of action have been explored.
9. Make sure you keep accurate records
Always keep clear records of all employee absences and discussions held with the employee – formal or informal. Likewise retain self certificates and medical certificates and ensure everything is held securely and confidentially.