It is advisable to have an effective way of monitoring absences and for a review of each employee’s absence record to be carried out on a regular basis: the odd day off here and there can add up! Where an employee’s absences appear excessive an effort should be made to understand the reason for the absence. An open dialogue should be created, with any conversations handled sensitively and in confidence, to understand any issues behind the absences.
When absences are caused by an underlying health problem, it may be appropriate to obtain an occupational health report to ascertain whether any adjustments may be required and understand whether the employee’s condition could be deemed to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If frequent absences are caused by a lack of childcare, consider whether flexible working arrangements could solve the issue.
Policies should be in place to explain what will happen if an employee is unable or unwilling to come in to work because of external circumstances such as bad weather or a rail strike. Employees can be expected to make reasonable efforts to make the journey in to work provided it is safe to do so and to consider alternatives if their normal route is unavailable. It may also be appropriate to ask the employee to work from home. Any policy should clearly state whether the employee will be paid and what notification processes the employee should follow if they are unable to work.
In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to take formal action if the employer has cause to doubt the genuineness of an absence. Any disciplinary or capability action should be carefully managed and to minimise the risks of an ensuing dismissal being unfair. The employee should have the opportunity to explain their absence and provide evidence for this. If the employee is disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 it might be reasonable to relax the usual policies and procedures which are in place by, for example, allowing an above average level of absence before formal action progresses.