What should a good company absence policy contain?

Sickness absence is an issue all employers have to address at some point with their staff and the best way to avoid ambiguity amongst employees and managers is to have a well-developed absence management policy and to ensure that managers are trained in its application.

Company terms and conditions regarding provisions for the treatment of absence and for sick pay entitlement must be given to all employees in writing within two months of beginning employment, either as part of their employment contract or via a separate policy or handbook documents.

The main points to include in any absence policy are as follows:

• Reporting arrangements: how and when to report absence, when contact must be made (daily or weekly etc)
• Medical certification: Self-certification and when a fit note is required, as well as any requirements to undergo examinations;
• Unauthorised absence: the policy should be clear about the consequences of failing to follow the procedure and/or to provide evidence;
• Return to work process;
• Trigger points: the company should be clear on any trigger points used (for example, the Bradford factor), stages of the process, meeting arrangements and in particular any rights regarding companions and appeal.

To allow employers to properly manage absence issues, there should also be a clear statement on when absence might be deemed to be misconduct; for example, what constitutes unauthorised absence or the consequences of an employee refusing to cooperate with a process.

It is also good practice to include a section on disability-related illnesses to ensure that those with disabilities have clear information on how to seek assistance, and that managers are aware of their obligations to make reasonable adjustments.

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