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6 common absence management mistakes to avoid

Failure to follow the sickness absence policy


  • If you have a clear and robust sickness absence policy in place do not forget to follow and adhere to it.
  • Ensure your managers know and understand the policy and procedure. Also ensure they know what to do when an employee is sick, that they monitor absences for trends, they check if any absence management triggers have been reached and that they take action if required.
  • Ensure your employees know and understand how to report their sickness, what evidence they need to present, how short and frequent absences will be dealt with and what the repercussions for not following the rules are. Make sure that the employee can easily access your sickness absence policy.

Inconsistency when applying the policy

  • Ensure that all procedures are applied in a fair and consistent way across the Company to avoid disgruntled employees and discrimination claims.
  • If you take different action for the same offence, it is likely that an Employment Tribunal would find this unfair and inferences could be drawn and you could end up facing a claim for discrimination.

Not carrying out return to work interviews

  • Return to work interviews are a vital tool to establish the reasons and nature of the absence.
  • A return to work interview can establish trends or highlight disabilities, stress at work, work related illness or long-term health issues.
  • They can be used to open a door to communication as to what steps can be taken to assist the employee and potentially avoid long-term sickness absence.
  • They can also be used as a deterrent. As an employee who is not genuinely ill may be deterred from pulling sickies if they know they will have to go back to work and face a return to work interview and explain their absence.

Not keeping accurate sickness absence records

  • The biggest benefit of keeping accurate absence records is that you can identify any trends or patterns and take action to rectify problems.
  • Monitoring and recording absences may mean you realise that the absences always occur on the first Monday after pay day or that they coincide with a specific event or highlight an issue with a team or indicate an underlying health condition.
  • Keeping records of every sickness absence will also give you a real and accurate picture of attendance.


  • Do not forget to keep in regular contact and update records for those on long-term sick leave. Keep the channel of communication open so that employees do not feel that you have forgotten about them, that they are a valid member of the Company and ensure you keep them informed of any important work changes, pay rises or job opportunities. That said make sure you strike the right balance so that you are not seen to be harassing or stressing them out.
  • Do not forget this is confidential and sensitive data. Ensure you act in compliance with the Data Protection Act and that you obtain permission before disclosing any information to a member of staff or third party.    Not seeking medical advice

Not seeking medical advice

  • It is imperative that you obtain clear and up to date medical evidence before you make any decision to dismiss an employee. An Employment Tribunal will consider whether you properly assessed the employee’s condition or illness and their likelihood of returning to work.
  • It is important that you seek medical evidence to fully understand the reasons for the absence.
  • Obtaining medical evidence can help you to find out if there are any underlying health issues that could be discussed and addressed or whether they have a condition which would be considered to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
  • If any employee does suffer from a disability, you will need to consider whether and what reasonable adjustments should be made in the workplace to facilitate the employee’s return to work.

Failure to follow a fair procedure

  • It is essential that you follow a fair procedure as if you do not you could face a successful unfair dismissal claim purely on the basis that you failed to follow a fair process even if you have a valid reason for dismissal.
  • An Employment Tribunal will look to see that you consulted with the employee and explored how to support them back into work, that you made the necessary reasonable adjustments (if required) and that you sought medical evidence that confirmed that the employee was unlikely to be able to return to work at all or for a prolonged period and that you warned the employee that their absence could lead to dismissal.

Are your managers equipped to handle sickness absence? We can train your managers on how to handle sickness absence and we can do it for you on your premises. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to contact us.

  Send us a message   or     Call 01432 278179

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