Although employers expect a certain amount of absence, high levels of absence can be disruptive, and expensive. Absence-related dismissals or disciplinary sanctions can lead to expensive claims and therefore it is important that employers handle absence carefully. The treatment of absences will depend on a number of factors, including whether the absence is: persistent, frequent, short-term absence; long-term absence; sickness related; and/or unauthorised absences (including lateness).

In the UK, employers are liable to pay employees statutory sick pay for certain periods. There may be an underlying cause for the absence, which could be sickness related, related to the employee’s personal or domestic circumstances, or could be due to a problem in the workplace. Establishing the cause may enable employers to work out a solution and manage absence more effectively.

Monitoring absence will assist in assessing how much working time is lost, and whether there are particular employees who have more time off than others. Monitoring also assists the employer to get to the cause of absences, and highlight any problems in any particular department or relating to any type of work.

Employers should implement an absence management policy, which sets out how they will monitor absence, and what will happen as a result of employee absenteeism. Most employers have trigger points for different stages of the absence management procedure. The triggers and the procedure should be applied consistently, and at each stage the employee should be given an opportunity to explain their absences.