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What should I include in an absence policy to help reduce the level of absenteeism?

An effective absence policy helps discourage unnecessary absence and provides clear rules on when disciplinary action will be taken.

Your absence policy might include:

  • Making it clear, in employment contracts and other communications, that employees are expected to work their contracted hours whenever possible.
  • Requiring employees to request any planned absence from work in advance, and to phone in when sick or otherwise absent without notice.
  • Setting out any flexible working arrangements (such as flexible hours or working from home) and what employees need to do if they want to work flexibly.
  • Requiring employees to provide a doctor’s ‘fit note’ if they have been off sick for more than a week and to complete a self-certification form for shorter illnesses.
  • Conducting return to work interviews after sick leave or absence to emphasise that absences matter and help identify any underlying problems.
  • Establishing how you will manage employees who are on long-term sick leave.
  • Monitoring and recording employee absences and periods of sick leave.
  • Setting levels or patterns of absence (including sick leave) that will result in further action — typically an investigation, possibly followed by disciplinary warnings and ultimately dismissal.
  • Promoting any occupational health initiatives such as support in managing stress or subsidised gym membership.
  • Including attendance levels in employee performance management or performance-related pay.

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