Does Christmas mean more absence?

Often at this time of year, employers have to deal with unexpected absences. How should these be managed? It’s not enough to have good absence management policies in place. They should also be clearly and regularly communicated by management so that all parties are clear about company expectations.

Accurate records must be maintained of employees’ absences and the reasons for them and, ideally, managers should be proactive in addressing sickness absence before it becomes a recurring issue.

Return-to-work interviews should be conducted following an absence to understand any underlying causes and what support management can offer to avoid further occurrences. As soon as an employee exceeds a clearly defined level of sickness absence, a formal sickness absence management process should be followed, offering a chance of improvement while also providing a fair process for dismissal if necessary.

Balancing the interests of the employer with an employee’s need to handle domestic issues can often be a challenge and requires sensitive handling. Employees will not have a right to paid time off in these circumstances but can take a ‘reasonable amount’ of time off where necessary to deal with crises relating to dependants, such as illness, dealing with the consequences of a death and unexpected events at school. However, determining what is ’reasonable’ and ‘necessary’ in these circumstances presents difficulties. By the very nature of the circumstances, employees will inevitably exercise these rights without notice.

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