Sickness Absence

Dylan Loughlin

Employers are often faced with the challenging task of trying to manage staff absence due to various illnesses. Sickness absence can effectively send a business into turmoil by way of financial costs which includes sick pay, temporary staff replacement and overtime to ensure the work continues.

As an HR and Employment Law consultants, we aim to ensure that whatever the reason for sickness absence, all cases are fully understood and thoroughly investigated as well as ensuring that employees have the time off that they need.

Types & Causes

Most employers will want to have a firm grasp on the mood and performance of their employees at all times. Evidence gathered by research by the Labour Relations Agency shows, that employers who efficiently manage attendance in the workplace not only save money but also improve effectiveness. The top three causes of stress-related absences are:

– Workload

– Management

– Non-work-related factors

One of the most common reasons for long-term sickness absence in the workplace is stress. Stress can affect anyone at any level of the business, and recent research shows that stress levels in the workplace are rising at an alarming rate.

Short-term vs Long-term Absence

· Short-term is generally ends after a 4-week period

· Long-term means the employee is likely to have a more chronic illness, consequently leading to long periods of absences from work. Employees under this category maybe protected under the Disability Discrimination Act (“DDA”).

Managing Sickness Absence

Set up procedures for measuring sickness absence in the workplace allows you to identify:

· How much working time has been lost;

· Where absence occurs the most, e.g. certain types of departments;

· How often an employee is absent; and

· Whether there is a pattern of absence, e.g. employee regularly calls in sick on a Friday.

This information will help the business decide what action to take in order to improve workplace absence and sickness levels. The proposed method for measuring intermittent, frequent absences is by using the Bradford Factor, its usage is one which is objective.

Sickness absence reporting procedure

A sickness absence policy sets out the procedures for reporting sickness absence and for the management of sickness absence in a fair and consistent way. Employers should keep in regular contact with the absence employee for an update, to see if there is anything the company can do and if possible, an expected return date. Such contact is intended to provide reassurance and will be kept to a reasonable minimum.

Return to work

Managers are expected to arrange a return to work interview with an employee to confirm the details of their absence and provide them with an opportunity to address any concerns upon their return.

Returning from long-term sickness absence

Businesses have a duty to help employees that are returning from long-term sickness to support their return, by way of making reasonable adjustments to the workplace or working hours and ensure they have not missed any training opportunities of strategic/development meetings.


You can improve on absence rates and minimise the impact of absence by putting effective employment policies and procedures in place. These should be backed up by agreeable working conditions, active management and good motivation.

Monitoring and investigating the causes of employee absence can also help you identify factors contributing to absence levels, e.g. workload demands, unsafe work practices or work relationships.

For help and advice on Sickness Absence Management, please contact Carrie Wilson, Copacetic Business Solutions Ltd ( Alternatively, fill out our contact form here.