Absence Management

Authorised absence from work occurs because of holiday leave, maternity, paternity and adoption leave, compassionate leave or leave to attend training courses and events. Unauthorised absence can result from arriving late to work.

The unauthorised absence caused by sickness is the focus of this section. Sickness absence was estimated to cost the country’s employers about £29 billion in 2013.

The main issues to consider are:

  • Monitoring sickness absence in a way which helps you
  • Having a clear attendance policy
  • Managing employees who are off sick
  • Having a return to work procedure


What you can do right now

Look at how you monitor sickness absence.

Are you monitoring short and long term illness? Are there any trends or patterns emerging? Are there peak times in the year where sickness absence is at its highest or lowest? Who is off sick? Are there any days in the week, which stand out as being most frequent in terms of absence from work? How much is this costing you?

Identifying the patterns can be the first step to understanding where to focus your attention. Also, it might be worth comparing sickness absence data with accident and near-miss records. Are there any common factors between the two sets of records?

Free Guides

This is a free guide from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (2007) called Measuring, Reporting and Costing Absence

ACAS have also produced a free guide about managing absence called Managing Attendance and Employee Turnover


Review your policies: Attendance Management and Return to Work.

The policies would need to refer to the following:

  • The arrangements for recording sickness absence
  • The arrangements about leave to attend medical appointments, time off to help return to work, e.g., a phased return to work
  • The types of absence covered by the policy and the triggers for taking action
  • Absence relating to a disability
  • The arrangements for attendance review, hearings and the right of appeal
  • A commitment to helping employees return to work
  • Supportive of making reasonable adjustments to retain the employee on return to work
  • Procedures about staying in touch with employees who are on sick leave and the obligations on employees
  • How the policy links to other policies of the organization, such as the equal opportunities policy


ACAS has a whole section on their website dedicated to Absence Management

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development provides guidance too. You will need to be a member to access all parts of their website

Other Useful Links and Websites