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How to manage employee absences and sickness

Illnesses and accidents are a fact of life and business owners and managers need to be able to deal with ad-hoc short-term absence as well as absence which becomes more long-term.

The basic principles for effective management of general absence and sickness can include:

  • Setting up a reporting system for absences
  • Setting targets for absence levels
  • Monitoring the frequency and reasons for short-term absences to try and identify a pattern and/or an underlying cause
  • Ensuring staff provide the necessary certificates to cover sick absence
  • Outlining the firm’s policy on sick pay

Short-term sickness absence

This generally doesn’t cause too much disruption for managers however, if it becomes persistent with the absence affecting the business, then action will need to be taken to look into the cause of the persistent absence and to try and find ways to improve it.

Long-term sickness absence

In general, this is a trickier area for managers to deal with and is likely to have more of an impact on the smooth running of your business than shorter absences. However, there are some things you can do which can help:

  • Develop a policy which deals with absences that continue over a certain length of time
  • Investigate the cause and likely length of absence – to help with business planning
  • Have regular consultations with your absent employee
  • Consider alternative working arrangements where possible
  • Having an assisted return to work
  • Prepare for a possible dismissal but beware of potential claims for unfair dismissal or disability discrimination

In summary, it’s important to have a set of policies and procedures which deal with sickness absence – both short-term and long-term. It’s also important to communicate them to staff and to apply them consistently. This will not only aid the smooth running of your business but it’s also necessary to avoid any claims of unfair dismissal or discrimination.

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