Time to review your absence process?

As employers grapple with managing “normal” absence we wanted to provide guidance on how to manage absence fairly and consistently.

Having an absence management policy in place can help employers gain an overview of absence levels in their organisation, manage excessive absences and put in place reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. A good policy should cove:

  • return to work interviews
  • informal discussion of absence levels
  • formal process to discuss concerns
  • formal disciplinary action


Key to managing absence is setting out expectations and confirming if trigger points will be used to manage absence. What is reasonable will depend on the organisation, the nature of the work and specific role. Often, various stages at which various processes will be triggered are set out, such as an informal discussion, formal discussion followed by a formal warning, eventually leading to dismissal.

It is worth noting that some employees may have high absence levels due to a condition that would be regarded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Where this is the case, employers must act carefully, so as not to treat these employees less favourably than their colleagues.

Where there is a disability, the Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the disability and to enable the employee to perform their duties. These reasonable adjustments also apply to absence triggers and depending on the nature and severity of the disability, these may need to be either adjusted for the individual circumstances or removed altogether if the circumstances require it.

Any action taken to adjust or remove triggers should be done in consultation with the employee’s doctor. This is to ensure that the adjustment is necessary (not all disabilities require excessive time away from work) and sufficient to meet the individual’s needs. Failure to take such action could result in any dismissal based on absence triggers being found to be unfair, and potentially discriminatory too.


Another situation that requires absences to be excluded from absence triggers are temporary conditions, such as pregnancy, that can impact an employee’s ability to attend work consistently. Again, to these employees, absence triggers should not be applied, as it would be discriminatory to do so. It is also worth noting that an employee who has suffered a miscarriage remains protected as though still pregnant for two weeks after the event.


Finally, absences that are connected with family friendly leave, such as emergency time off for dependents, parental bereavement leave, etc should also not be included in absence triggers. This is due to the fact these rights are protected in law and therefore employees should not suffer a detriment from exercising them, and these are not sickness absences but are connected to a situation with another.


If you feel that your absence policy requires to be reviewed, contact us on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk

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