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King's Lynn based Human Capital Department advises on how employers should tackle staff absences at work

Employees' absences can have a serious impact on local business, particularly small businesses.

Frequent short-term absences are more disruptive than a long-term absence because of their unpredictable and recurring nature.

It is important that local organisations have a policy and procedure relating to absence management which is clear about employee responsibilities, and actions that will be taken to minimise absences.

Peter Lawrence, director of Human Capital Department (14280541)
Peter Lawrence, director of Human Capital Department (14280541)

The procedure should also specify “trigger points”, which prompt a manager to arrange a review meeting with the employee to discuss the reasons for the continued absences.

“Trigger points” may include a specific number of absences for example two or three within a given period of time.

The review meeting is not a disciplinary meeting and should be supportive and sympathetic. The employee should be encouraged to discuss the reasons for their absences in a non-threatening manner with reassurances that any discussions are confidential.

Once the cause of the absence is known, steps can be taken to assist the employee in returning to the expected work pattern.

Submission of “fit notes”, what we used to call a doctor’s note, must be obtained if the employee is off for more than seven days, and a return to work interview should be conducted on the employee’s return even if he or she has only been absent for one day.

When determining trigger points, it is useful to include separate spells of absence rather than just days in a defined period of time.

A number of local companies have found that that implementing these simple procedures have led to a dramatic reduction in absenteeism. However, if there is no sustained improvement after these actions have been taken and it has been established that there is no known ongoing medical problem, it would then be reasonable to instigate disciplinary procedures and employers should then follow the disciplinary process.

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