How to Deal Effectively with Unsatisfactory Levels of Short-Term Absence

In this article I look at the process you will need to adopt when faced with unsatisfactory levels of short term absence.

Unsatisfactory Levels of Short-Term Absence

Tactful but serious questioning is usually sufficient to deter employees from falsely claiming illness, but where an individual’s levels of absence have reached unsatisfactory proportions or where absences are following a particular pattern e.g. school holidays, regular Mondays, days when their football team are playing etc. further investigations will be required.

As a guide, frequent short term self-certified absence exceeding 8 days in a rolling 12-month period should be regarded as unsatisfactory. This equates to an annual individual Lost Time Rate of 3% and a Bradford Index of 512.

Formal Review Meetings

Individuals who fall into the unsatisfactory absence bracket should move to a programme of formal Return to Work Meetings.  As with informal return to work meetings they should occur on their first day back to work following all periods of absence.   See my article Dealing with Short Term Sickness Absence and download my template Return to Work Meeting form.

When taking an individual forward to a formal process you would also be justified in investigating in the following ways:-

  • Asking the employee for permission to approach their doctor for a report. It is important that this is done in compliance with the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. The Access to Health Records Act 1990 enables an individual to obtain a copy of their own health record, which they could then pass on to you.
  • Requesting the employee visits your company doctor or Occupational Health Advisors.

The formal meetings should continue until you are satisfied that the absence levels have reduced to a satisfactory level.

Top Tips

Frequent absence of this nature may indicate general ill health requiring medical investigation, and if continued may indicate work related stress caused by lack of capability to do the job. Individuals in this situation should be encouraged to seek proper medical attention to establish any underlying health problem. It may also be useful to discuss whether there are domestic difficulties with the job.

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The Managing Unsatisfactory Absence folder contains guidance and resources to help you manage employees whose absence levels are preventing them from providing regular and efficient service. I provide a How To Guide and Flow Chart, a Checklist to help you prepare for a Formal Return to Work Meeting and a series of warning letters, including dismissal.

How to Deal Effectively with Unsatisfactory Levels of Short Term Absence

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