Creating a sickness policy

In order to manage attendance and help every employee understand the policies and procedures they must follow in the event of an absence, you should develop a sickness absence policy.

Why do I need a sickness absence policy?

All employees should be made aware of the sick leave policy when they start work to understand what’s expected from them and what they can expect from you as the employer.

Managers should be trained to apply the policy fairly and consistently. They should also know how to carry out effective return to work interviews and understand what adjustments the organisation can reasonably offer.

Who is responsible for developing sickness absence policy?

A sickness absence policy – also known as an attendance management policy, absence policy or sick leave policy should be developed with the full cooperation of your employees and other workplace representatives, such as trade unions.

If employees are involved in the development of a positive attendance management policy, they will understand what standards are expected of them and will be less likely to take time off work.

As a result, jointly-agreed policies can help reduce absenteeism and costs. They can also increase staff morale.

How do I develop a sickness policy?

There is no set format that an attendance management policy should take, but there is extensive guidance available from various sources, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).

Your policy should generally include:

  • a clear statement of intent to help employees understand what standards are expected of them;
  • an outline of your arrangements and procedures for recording absence;
  • advice for the employee on how to report absence and what’s expected from them during their period of absence;
  • information on support and assistance available to those who are off work;
  • actions that will be taken before and after the absentee’s return to work, including the return to work interview.

What other policies can help prevent absence?

There are a number of other policies and procedures that you can develop to minimise the negative health effects of work and help prevent sickness absence.

Specific policies include:

  • smoking – smokers tend to have more sick leave than non-smokers;
  • drugs – the inappropriate use of drugs in the workplace can lead to increased sickness absence and reduced productivity;
  • alcohol – a major cause of workplace accidents, low productivity, ill health and absenteeism.