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Absence improvement guide

Reviewed 9 March 2021

Most sickness is genuine and unauthorised absence may be caused by family commitments or stress. However, these situations are difficult to manage because they are often sudden and unexpected. This leaves some managers feeling unsure about what they can do.

This guide enables you to manage the process to highlight high absence levels with an individual to encourage improvememt, and document their response in a formal framework.

Ultimately if this procedure is followed and no improvements are forthcoming, dismissal will be deemed to be a reasonable outcome.

Absence improvement

It is recognised by the Company that from time to time staff may require to be absent from their place of work due to illness. The length of time lost by employees through illness must however be monitored to ensure that each member of staff is able to do their job, effectively and without putting themselves or others at risk. It is not the intention of the Company to penalise the genuinely sick, however it must be recognised that an employee who is medically unfit to carry out his/her contractual duties may not be able continue in employment.

Managers will consider cases of sickness absence on an individual basis and ensure the provision of appropriate support, advice and Occupational Health / Company Approved Doctor input where appropriate. However, it is recognised that in some cases, patterns/levels of absence will be unacceptable and formal management action will be required.

Employees who become aware that they have an illness problem are encouraged to inform their manager at the earliest opportunity. All such requests will be dealt with as speedily and compassionately as possible.


On return from absence all employees must be interviewed by their immediate line manager. At this interview the employee and the line manager must complete a Return to work interview form agreeing the reason for the absence, the period of absence and, where appropriate, what course of action is required as a result of the absence. This form must be signed by both parties before being forwarded to the employees personnel file

Stage 1

In situations where an employees sickness record is giving some cause for concern, then the employees Line Manager will discuss those concerns with the employee, providing support and counselling where appropriate. It is essential that any message conveyed in this manner is clear and unambiguous.

Stage 2

If there is no obvious improvement in the health of the employee or any sign of patterns emerging in an employees absence then the line manager would arrange for the employee to meet the next-in-line manager who would formally review the employees case. At this formal stage the employee must be offered the opportunity for appropriate representation.

The employee must be given the outcome of this meeting in writing and where appropriate they must be given notice that their level of absence is unacceptable and a period of time to improve.

Stage 3

If the employee fails to improve in the given time scale then a formal second Review must be undertaken. If possible, a more senior manager should chair this meeting. The employee must be offered the opportunity for appropriate representation at this time.

Prior to the Meeting the employee must be seen by the Occupational Health / Company Approved Doctor who will give his opinion on the employees health. The employee must be given the results of this meeting in writing. Where appropriate they must be given notice that their level of absence is unacceptable and that they are given a period of time during which to reduce their level of absence. The employee must also be informed at this stage if any further absences may result in their employment being terminated due to incapacity.

Stage 4

If there is still no improvement within the time scale a Review will be held with the appropriate Senior Manager / Director. The employee must be offered the opportunity for appropriate representation at this meeting. The Director / Manager will review all the available evidence including the Doctors report.

If there are no special circumstances the employee will be dismissed on the grounds of incapacity and their inability to meet the acceptable standards of attendance required by th

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