The importance of strong absence management policies

The number of people attending work while ill has more than tripled since 2010. A recent report has found that 86%  of 1,000 organisations surveyed had noticed staff coming to work while ill – compared to just 26% eight years ago.

Sickness in the workplace is inevitable but it is important to have clear policies relating to the reporting and monitoring of absence:

  • Employees should report their illness in advance of the time they are due to start work
  • There should be a specific policy in contracts or handbooks setting a deadline and stating who to call in the event of absence
  • Employers are not legally obliged to allow staff time off work for visits to the GP or dentist. The policy can state that employees attend these appointments outside of work hours, take annual leave or make the time up later on.
  • If an employee is ill for seven calendar days or more, they need to supply a GP’s fit note. For absences of seven days or fewer, employees can self-certify.
  • Those who are employed, earning at least £113 a week and who have been off work for four consecutive days are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP). The current rate of SSP is £89.35 per week and can be paid for up to a maximum of 28 weeks for the days employees usually work. SSP is payable after three ‘waiting days’ of absence.

There is no rule that says an employer cannot contact an employee during a period of sick leave. However, contact should be handled sensitively, particularly where someone is suffering from mental health problems or work-related stress and they might find regular contact from their employer distressing. Again, the policy should set out the amount of contact and by whom, during absence.

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