24 August 2018

– Richard Voisey, Nwes Business Consultant

The figures

An estimated 137.3 million working days (4.3 days per worker) were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016 according to Government figures.

Minor illnesses (such as coughs and colds) were the most common reason accounting for approximately 34 million days lost (24.8%).  This was followed by musculoskeletal problems (including back pain, neck and upper limb problems) at 30.8m days (22.4%). Mental health issues (including stress, depression, anxiety and serious conditions) were the next most common reason for sickness absence, resulting in 15.8m days lost (11.5%).

The advantages of a written absence policy


Businesses that employs staff will experience employee absence and in some cases this

absence can be disruptive and costly. A written absence policy can provide employers with a structure for handling short-term and long-term absences, as well as providing clear procedures for employees to follow when informing their employer that they will be absent.

This is particularly important if, ultimately, it becomes necessary to discipline or dismiss an employee because of their absence.

To manage absence and ensure that staff know what is expected of them regarding

absence and attendance at work, it is advisable for an employer to have a written absence policy. Having a clear absence policy can help with performance management and ensure employers follow a consistent and fair procedure with all staff.


What should an absence policy contain?

The policy should set out the measures that are in place to deal with sickness absence. All members of staff should be made aware of the policy and have access to it. An absence policy should include the following information:


  • A reminder of the employee’s responsibility to maintain good attendance in accordance with their contract of employment.
  • Instructions as to how employees should provide notification of their absence. For example:
    • How soon after their normal start time they should get in touch.
    • Who they should contact.
    • What method of communication they should use (telephone, e-mail or text message).
    • Procedures for keeping in contact with the employer during longer absences.
    • Details of how staff should provide proof of illness where necessary, such as providing a ‘fit note’ from their GP.
    • Details of the employer’s support for employees with genuine reasons for absence. For example, this could include confirmation that the employer will:
    • Allow reasonable time off for dental or GP appointments, or to deal with emergencies and attend funerals.
    • Make reasonable adjustments so that employees who have become disabled or whose disability has worsened are not put at a substantial disadvantage in their job.
    • Explore ways to support returns to work, for example allowing a gradual return.
    • An explanation of how absences relating to pregnancy and disability will be recorded and treated.
    • An explanation of how and when ‘return to work’ interviews will take place and the purpose of these discussions.
    • Details of employees’ entitlement to statutory sick leave and pay, and any additional sickness leave and pay that their employer provides.
    • Details of any disciplinary action that may arise from an employee’s failure to follow the procedures outlined in the absence policy.


Additional contents of the policy

  • What to do when someone calls in sick.
  • Proof of illness.
  • Recording sickness absence information.
  • Return to work interviews.
  • Handling frequent and long-term absence.
  • Dismissals due to absence.




http://www.hse.gov.uk/sicknessabsence/ provides guidance and resources


To find out more about starting or running for your business, call 0845 609 9991 or visit www.nwes.org.uk

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