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Recurrent short-term absences

Certification process for recurrent short-term absence

Further action in relation to short-term sickness absence may be triggered by any of the following: 

  • more than 4 separate periods of absence in a rolling 12-month period;
  • 12 working days of absence (pro-rata for part-time staff) in a rolling 12-month period;
  • regular Monday/Friday absence, additional days before or after a holiday or other regular pattern of absence;
  • regular absence at certain times that coincide with work pressures or deadlines; or
  • any combination of the above.

Short-term absence map

Short-term absence matches one or a combination of the criteria above  Establish if action needed See Guideline A
Informal discussion with Manager Raise concerns with employee See Guideline B
Monitor and review takes place Consult with HRBP See Guideline C
Sickness absence improves No further action needed See Guideline D
No improvement Inform HRBP See Guideline E
HR makes referral to Occupational Health, if appropriate. Then:  
Manager acts on Occupational Health's recommendation and absence improves
See Guideline F
Absences are not attributable to any medical condition and matter dealt with under Disciplinary Procedure
See Guideline G
Action taken under Ill Health/Incapacity Procedure
See Guideline F

Guidelines for recurrent short-term absences

Regular reports on absence will be sent to the Deans of College/College Mangers/Head of Professional Services (and other nominated managers) to help them identify when these indicators have been reached.

These levels are only indicative. It may not be appropriate for the manager to take further action when these levels are reached because they already know enough about the employee's health to decide that there is no need to enquire further. However, it is essential that employees are treated in a fair and consistent way.  For example, there should be objective reasons why no action be taken in respect of Employee A, who has been absent for 10 days in 4 separate periods in the last year, while the manager does invite Employee B to a meeting to discuss his absence record of 5 days in 5 separate periods. 

In some cases there may be a need to make further enquiries. The manager should raise their concerns with the individual employee in the first place. The manager may also wish to consult their relevant Human Resources Business Partner/Manager/Advisor.

At all stages of the process, notes of meetings should be made and retained in accordance with Data Protection standards.

The manager should arrange a meeting with the employee to raise their concerns about the level of sickness absence. The discussion should take place soon after the employee returns to work. The manager should stress that it will be an informal discussion to discuss recent episodes of sickness. The discussion should be considered part of an ongoing open dialogue between a manager and a member of the team. Consequently, it will not normally be appropriate for an employee to be accompanied by a representative or fellow worker.  Similarly, it will not normally be necessary for a representative of Human Resources to be present, although this may exceptionally be requested.

The purpose of the discussion is:

  • to present the sickness absence record, both recent and for the last 12 months. The manager should have a copy available to give to and discuss with the employee.  This information is available from Trent HR for People Manager users or from management information reports;
  • to convey the manager’s concern at the absences and the effect it may be having on services and/or colleagues;
  • to seek comments from the employee;
  • to determine whether there are any factors at work which may be contributing to the absence e.g. temporary increased work load (year end) or staff shortages;
  • to determine what action (if any) can be taken to help the employee’s attendance to improve;
  • to counsel the employee that the amount of sick leave needs to be reduced and a target set which is reasonable and achievable in the circumstances, together with a defined review period during which the absence level will be closely monitored (HR Business Partner/Manager/Advisor should be consulted before setting the target);
  • if a line manager has particular concerns about an employee's health at this stage, a referral to Occupational Health may be made;
  • a record should be made and copied to the employee.

During the review period the manager should meet with the employee after any period of absence to establish the reasons for absence, ensuring that these meetings are documented and copies retained by both the employee and manager

At the completion/end of the review period, if, following the discussion between the employee and the manager, attendance has improved to the target stated as acceptable at the discussion, then this should be acknowledged and noted and no further action will then be required.

If attendance does not improve to the stated target the manager should consult with their HR Business Patrner/Manager/Advisor about the next steps, which will normally be to refer the employee to the Occupational Health Service, unless an earlier referral has taken place.

If it is clear that the absence is medically related, the employee should be referred to the Occupational Health Service. (If it is not medically related, referral to the OHS is likely to be inappropriate). The aim of the referral is to establish whether there is an underlying medical condition contributing to the absences and, if so, what the impact of this will be on the employee's ability to do their job.

The manager will need to meet the employee again to discuss their continued pattern of absence and to notify them that a referral to Occupational Health is being made (through HR) and the purpose of the referral.

Following receipt of the report from Occupational Health, the manager and HR Business Partner / Manager / Advisor will consider what action should follow in view of the Occupational Health report. This could include:

  • making changes to the job, e.g. a redefinition of duties, or providing some other form of support;
  • redeployment;
  • taking action under the Ill Health/Incapacity Procedure.

It may be that the absences are not attributable to any medical condition.  In such cases, the matter should be dealt with under the relevant procedure after discussion with HR (it may be that the matter should be dealt with under the Ill Health or Disciplinary Procedure depending on the circumstances of the case).

If it can be reasonably established after a thorough investigation that the real reasons for absence are not sickness related but rather misconduct, the disciplinary procedure should apply.