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Help for small firms

Managing staff absence: A step-by-step guide

Managing staff absence - Step 2

Taking action if the problem persists

If an employee is absent repeatedly and the return-to-work interviews are failing to result in an improvement in their attendance record, you will need to take further action.

  • Agree trigger points with your employees, making it clear when repeated absence automatically leads to formal action. For example, if an employee has had four separate periods of absence in a set period, they might be asked to:
    • forward their doctor's notes to you or their manager, but they need to agree to this
    • sit down with you and talk about the causes of their absence and if anything can be done to improve their attendance.
  • But you need to be sensitive about reasons for repeated absences. For example, if an employee has regular hospital appointments, it would not be appropriate to quiz them about their attendance record.
  • However, repeated unexplained or unjustified absences may be treated as a conduct issue and lead to disciplinary action and ultimately dismissal.

For more on taking action on conduct issues see Managing discipline - Investigation to possible dismissal: A guide, another online tool in this series of guides.

Are your absence problems caused by 'work-life' balance issues?

Flexible working can help many employees balance the demands of work and their personal lives.

Latest research shows that in 56% of workplaces, some employees are allowed to work reduced hours, in 35% of workplaces some employees use flexitime and in 30% of workplaces some employees work from home.

Parents of children 16 and under (18 and under for disabled children) have the right to request to work flexibly. You have to give serious consideration to their request.

For more information go to the The right to request flexible working.

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