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Document updated/added on 04.09.2019

Topic: Sickness absence

attendance procedure
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Attendance procedure

Attendance procedure

Our attendance procedure provides a process for dealing with genuine but persistent short-term sickness absence. It’s not suitable for long-term incapacity cases.


A dismissal due to persistent short-term sickness absence could either be due to conduct, capability or some other substantial reason (SOSR). You should use our Disciplinary Procedure where there’s evidence that the employee’s sickness absence isn’t genuine or where there’s any other suspected misconduct relating to sickness absence. Where the problem relates to the employee taking an unacceptable amount of time off sick but there’s no reason to doubt its genuineness, a disciplinary procedure isn’t really appropriate as it implies culpability on the part of the employee. You could use our Capability Procedure in that scenario but really the wording of it is aimed at incapability and poor work performance when the employee is at work, rather than an unsatisfactory attendance record. Plus, where the persistent repeated absences themselves are the reason for warnings/dismissal rather than the employee’s health as such, e.g. because of the negative impact those absences are having on the business and on other staff, the better dismissal label may actually be SOSR rather than capability. So, that’s why we’ve created our new Attendance Procedure.


Our attendance procedure follows a similar format to the other two procedures, i.e. an optional informal stage and then a three-stage formal process comprising a written warning, final written warning and dismissal, with a meeting preceding each stage to ensure the procedural fairness of any subsequent dismissal. Like those procedures, it doesn’t apply to short-serving employees who have less than two years’ employment, i.e. those who don’t have the general right to claim unfair dismissal, and it’s expressed to be non-contractual. However, the content of absence management meetings will be different to disciplinary hearings and performance review meetings, and this is reflected in our procedure. The purposes of an absence management meeting include to: investigate the nature and causes of the employee’s absences and the likelihood of recurrence, set out the impact the absences are having on the business and on the employee’s colleagues, and outline what levels of attendance are required, setting targets for improvement and a formal review period. You should also take steps to obtain medical evidence early in the process if the employee has an underlying health condition which is causing their poor attendance record, especially if it might constitute a disability.

Trigger points

Our procedure deliberately omits to set out trigger points for taking action under the procedure. The difficulty with confirming specific trigger points is that not only can it take away your flexibility to consider individual circumstances but also it can encourage sickies as it leads employees to believe they can be off sick without consequence provided they don’t exceed the trigger points. So, keep any trigger points to yourself. Do significantly adjust them though if the employee’s absences are disability-related and don’t take any action in relation to pregnancy-related absences.

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