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Sickness Absence

With summer passing us by and businesses getting back to full staff levels we decided to re-start our HR Forums run by Kate Wargen and Rosie Renton.

We focused our latest session on Sickness Absence, a common reoccurring theme for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

How you deal with sickness absence is dependent on your business and the individual facts however, communication and understanding between employee and employer will remain vital no matter what the situation.

Some of our discussions we had within the group attending were regarding:

sickness absenceAbsence policies

An employer should have an absence policy in place to make it clear exactly what is expected if an employee is absent. An absence policy should include:

  • how to report absences. Who to contact and when contact should be made
  • when an employee will be required to provide a fit note
  • when return to work discussions will be held and by whom
  • any review points that have been set by the employer
  • whether the employer uses an Occupational Health referral scheme and when this will be introduced
  • what pay will be received and how long for.

Sick Pay

If a worker is absent for four or more days in a row they may qualify for SSP (Statutory Sick Pay). It is payable for 28 weeks. To qualify, a worker must be earning at least the Lower Earning Limit. The current rate for SSP is £94.25 per week.

Some employers  offer contractual sick pay which cannot be less than SSP. If contractual sick pay is offered, the rate and how long it is payable for in the terms and conditions of employment.

The Importance of Properly Recording Sickness Absence

Managers should be aware of the procedural and legal issues which might affect the way in which they deal with an employee reporting in sick. Ignoring them is likely to create or increase risk, both from a legal and employee relations perspective

Where different departments are in contact with an employee, managers should ensure that a “joined up” approach is maintained so that the employee does not get contradictory messages.

Having an effective policy in place will assist employers to deal with absences consistently and effectively as well as putting employees on notice as to the standards of attendance and reporting that the employer expects from them.

Short term sickness absence

Short term absences are the most common cause of sickness absence. An employee should let their employer know as soon as possible if they are unable to attend work. Regardless of the length of the absence an employer should hold a return to work discussion once the employee has returned to work.

Long term sickness absence

Handling long-term absence can be difficult because the illness may be serious, involve an operation and recovery time, or could be a mental health issue. These require a careful approach.

An employer should:

  • assess if colleagues can cope with the extra workload or if help is required on a temporary contract
  • consider asking the employee for permission to contact their GP to assess:
    • whether a return to work will be possible and if so when
    • whether a return to the same work would be advisable
    • whether a phased return would help.

“I just wanted to thank you and Rosie for the forum this morning. It was really useful and informative and will be able to double check areas
and look at new ideas for us here – Emma, St Michael’s Hospice”

If you work in HR and would like your policies checked or any queries answered please get in touch with us.



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