Dealing with Absence

Absenteeism is expensive. Costs to the employer include reduced productivity, lower quality goods or services and poor morale from employees who have to do extra work to cover absent employees’ work. Therefore, it is important that you measure and manage absence effectively with a clear absence policy in place which is understood by all.

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Dealing With Absence 05

What you need to know…

Absence Policy

The policy should:

  • Must outline employees' rights and obligations when taking time off work due to sickness
  • Provide details of sick pay terms and sickness benefits
  • Outline processes employees need to follow when off sick and when they return
  • Advise when they need a GP or self-certified sick note and the potential need for medical reports
  • Include processes for managing short- and long-term absence

Legislative considerations

  • Under Employment (Jersey) Law 2003, the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law and the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013, you need to ensure you are making reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability, to avoid claims of discrimination.
  • You also need to record pregnancy related sickness absence separately to avoid claims of sex discrimination.

What you need to do…

Managing short-term absence

Ensure you follow your internal processes:

  • Investigate the frequency, duration, and reasons for absence.
  • Carefully monitor individual, departmental and overall workplace absence.
  • Always conduct a return-to-work interview - discuss problems with the employees concerned.
  • Consider requesting a medical report, with the employee’s consent, to establish if there is any underlying medical condition to support the level of absence. There may be a condition or links to disability discrimination which may not be immediately apparent. Support and/or adjustments may be appropriate.
  • Work in conjunction with GPs, occupational therapists, and PHI providers for advice on how to support the employee’s return to work.
  • If you suspect that the employee’s reasons for the absence are not genuine, investigate carefully, discuss with them and pursue formal disciplinary action where appropriate.
  • Consider what can be done to assist employees with personal or family problems - would counselling help?
  • If the employee has a recognised illness or medical condition that is not a disability but their absence rate is unacceptably high, dismissal may be appropriate following the capability process. The employee's length of service and the availability of suitable alternative employment are relevant factors to consider.
  • Where the absence is related to an actual or potential disability, extra care and additional steps will be required and expert HR and medical advice should be sought.
  • Consider contractual rights to sick pay and other benefits e.g., PHI.
  • Don't make snap decisions.

Managing long-term absences

You need to have strategies in place to help employees get back to work after long periods of sickness-related absence. 

  • Ensure contact is maintained with employees in a sensitive manner.
  • Use health professionals to evaluate the reasons for absence and carry out health assessments.
  • Plan reasonable adjustments to enable their return to work:
         - Allow a gradual return to work, from part-time to full-time
         - Change work patterns or management style to reduce pressure
         - Enable them to do flexible working
         - Accommodate the employee's mobility
  • Create a return-to-work plan. Include:
         - How the role has been modified
         - The time period
         - The new working arrangements
         - The date on which the plan will be reviewed
  • Agree the plan with the employee, their line manager and anyone else affected