David Webb: Absence management policies should provide clarity


Keeping accurate records of staff absence and effectively managing those absences are essential in running a successful organisation.

A small business should, as a minimum, log when individual staff are off ill or absent for an unauthorised reason, for example, because of an unforeseen family caring responsibility.

A larger employer should be able to do more with its data on absence, such as collating and analysing the information to build a picture of how much time the organisation is losing through unauthorised absence; where and when absence is occurring; and how often individual employees are absent.

The analysis may show up patterns or matters that need investigating further. For example, why is a particular employee off on so many Mondays? Another employee is off a lot with stomach upsets: is there a factor the employer is unaware of, but should know about?

However, most managers recognise that facts and figures are only the start of the matter. Handling an absence with the employee can often require a lot of skill, tact and sensitivity.

This is why the organisation’s absence management policy is so important. It should make clear to employees what is expected of them if they are on unauthorised absence and the ‘absence triggers’ – the number of days’ absence when managers consider warnings, and possibly dismissal, unless attendance at work improves.

The policy should also make clear to managers what is expected of them, and the rules and procedures they should follow in dealing with these issues in a fair and consistent way.

It should also make clear that some absences can be particularly delicate matters. For example, long-term absence and absence linked to a disability.

David Webb is guidance writer for Acas