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Help for small firms

Managing staff absence: A step-by-step guide

Managing staff absence - Where are they?

And what should you do?

Sometimes employees can be absent for a host of reasons, some completely justified, others not.

  • They may phone in claiming to be ill, when you suspect all they want is a day off. At this stage all you can do is follow the Managing staff absence - Short-term sickness page of this tool. But Managing staff absence - Step 1 should help uncover why they were really off, and any underlying problems.
  • They may phone in with another reason why they will not be coming into work.
    • If it's an emergency, and they've briefly explained the basics of the situation, ask them to phone you back later in the day when the situation is in hand. When they phone back, be reasonable in discussing with them when they will return to work and give them enough time to deal with anything that's important.
    • If it's a serious family or personal problem, be flexible and come to an agreement about when they'll be back at work, but if they're away more than a day also agree about how and when they'll keep in touch. Remember, they may be entitled to unpaid time off because of dependents' problems under the Employment Rights Act 1996. But some employers allow some paid compassionate leave - you will need to decide your policy so managers are not left with the difficult task of using their discretion in very sudden and sensitive situations.
  • If when they phone in, the reason they're giving doesn't seem to warrant them being off, say they should come into work as soon as possible to discuss the matter. Also advise them, that if the reason is found to be unjustified, they may have to take the time off as annual leave or could face disciplinary action over a conduct issue.
  • If they're missing from work and do not make contact, and you cannot reach them, when they do come back, go to Managing staff absence - Step 1.
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