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Help for small firms

Managing staff absence: A step-by-step guide

Short-term sickness

Managing staff absence - Short-term sickness

Half-an-hour late and no word, what's your policy?

For many employers, particularly those running a small business, trying to work around sickness or unauthorised absence can be very difficult.

Most ailments last only a day or so - some a week or two. But they are short-term illnesses - and this is what your employee should do if they are not coming in.

  • Speak to you or their manager as soon as possible. Many employers specify that within an hour of the employee's normal start time they must be notified of:
    • the nature of the illness
    • a likely return date.
  • If the illness lasts less than seven days, provide a self-certificate.
  • If the illness lasts seven days or more, provide a Statement of Fitness for Work (or Fit Note) from their GP.

The Fit Note allows the doctor to advise you if the employee is 'unfit for work' or 'may be fit for some work'. GPs now have to advise on fitness for work in general rather than fitness for the employee's specific job.

For example, it may be possible for the employee to return to work gradually or lighter duties, and not necessarily in their normal job. The GP can help advise on this.

If the employee cannot give you a Fit Note, you need to find out why at Managing staff absence - Step 1. This matter could actually be a conduct issue where you should consider taking disciplinary action.

And where warranted, you could arrange for them to have a medical with a company doctor.

In an unexpected absence, they simply might not turn up or be late, but you must still manage this kind of unauthorised absence and find out why they were absent.

If you are having to deal with these circumstances, go to Managing staff absence - Where are they?

Example absence policies are available on pages 13 and 35-37 of the Acas pdf icon Advisory booklet - Managing attendance and employee turnover [568kb].

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