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Help for small firms

Managing staff absence: A step-by-step guide

Managing staff absence - Be prepared: Know the basics

To manage sickness levels and keep absence from work down, you need to:

  • monitor absence levels to find out how much they are costing you. Keep a record for each employee and see if there are any patterns. Absence costs the UK economy £17 billion a year in work falling behind schedule, damage to customer service and company reputation, reduced morale among colleagues trying to cover and hiring temporary staff.
  • have a clear policy for managing sickness absence and unauthorised absence. This should include how employees tell you they are sick, and both managers and staff understanding the purpose of 'return to work interviews', and any triggers towards disciplinary action. For more information on handling discipline, see Managing discipline - Investigation to possible dismissal: A guide, another online tool in this series of guides.
  • understand the role GPs play in helping employees return to work and how the 'Statement of Fitness for Work', commonly called a 'Fit Note', is used
  • think about the impact on employees' physical and emotional wellbeing of:
    • working conditions
    • your business's culture - for example, is it open and inclusive or hostile and unsupportive?
    • working patterns - for example, are there peaks and troughs of activity, or can shift patterns mean employees lose sleep?

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