Recording sickness absence

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

recording sickness absenceIn order for employers to be able to tackle sickness absence in the workplace, they need to be aware of staff sickness absence patterns. The best way to do this is to keep an accurate record of sickness absence – keeping on top of who is off, how long they have been off for and why (though staff are entitled to write ‘personal’ on their self certificate).

In smaller businesses with fewer staff members, it may be easier for employers to keep on top of who is off sick and who isn’t. But in larger businesses with more employees, not keeping track of who is off sick can cause problems.

Recording sickness absence accurately for all staff can help you:

  • minimise the disruption caused by absences, helping you to plan cover for absent employees;
  • identify patterns or causes of absence that could be work-related;
  • ensure accurate payment, whether statutory or contractual sick pay;
  • determine if reasonable adjustments are needed to help the employee return to work;
  • manage absence for those who have lots of short-term absence for unrelated issues;
  • ensure you keep in contact with absent staff;
  • ensure you are fair to all staff.

There are many different tools and systems available for tracking and recording sickness absence in the workplace, for example, ACAS’s absence record sheet and this sample tracking tool. However, before an employer begins tracking their employees’ sickness absence patterns, there are certain requirements that must be met.

While there is no law governing absence management, employers must make sure that recording their employees’ attendance data is in compliance with data protection laws. Sickness absence data is sensitive information and must be kept private and confidential. If you do decide to start tracking sickness absence, it may be a good idea to let your staff know that their personal information will not be passed on to any third parties.

For more information or help on tracking sickness absence, visit the Fit for Work website or call the Advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor. If you have a staff member who has been off work for four weeks or more, visit and click on ‘refer an employee’ to refer them to the service.


  1. Emma


    What are the requirements for recording disability related sickness absence versus standard non-disability related sickness absence recording on systems please? There are many times where disability related sickness absence isn’t used, such as for certain trigger points or in redundancy matrices, however I’ve found that many HR departments don’t record the types of absence differently except in the employee’s paper files (if they exist). This can be detrimental to staff, especially if employers are providing references which generally give sickness absences in the previous 2 years to potential employers.


    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Emma,
      Thank you for your query. It is always good practice to record all absence as this fulfils the requirements for recording for SSP purposes. However, many businesses find that recording disability absences separately is useful, so that they are not or may not be included as trigger points or for other discriminatory purposes, but still give an overall impression of total absence. There is no legal requirement and the DWP states “ You can choose how you keep records of your employees sickness absence. HMRC may need to see these records if there is a dispute over payment of SSP.”
      Our guidance sheet on recording absence may be helpful for you.
      The Fit for Work team

  2. CarolynD

    I looked at the HSE tool and it is ancient – I could not upload it to Windows 10 – it still mentions XP in the Introduction to the tool. Is there any news on whether a more up to date tool is available? Thanks

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Carolyn,
      Thank you for your comment. We have now updated the blog with links to some other tools which should be easier to use.
      The Fit for Work

  3. Krzysztof

    Hi Fit for Work team
    What rights does a worker if the disease was caused by work.
    Kind regards

    • Fit for Work team

      Hi Krzysztof,
      Thank you for your enquiry. As this is quite a big topic, which we are sure will be of interest to others, we are preparing a blog post on the subject.
      The Fit for Work team

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