Insights - Staff Sickness

How to manage staff sickness effectively


Whether it’s a factory in excess of 50 employees or a small office of six, it is inevitable that as a manager you will have to deal with staff sickness. Staff sickness may just be a couple of consecutive days of the flu doing the rounds, or it could be something more serious such as long-term absence due to injuries sustained in an accident.

For large companies, the Human Resource department would manage this process, however it is important that it is managed in a manner respectful to the employee, whilst being mindful of business operations.


Clear and comprehensive guidance
As an employer, you should ensure that your employees are provided with a comprehensive Sickness Absence Policy and that this is adhered to consistently. Your policy should address:

  • How and when the employee is expected to report sickness absence;
  • When the employee is expected to provide a fit note;
  • How much sick pay the employee receives and how long will it last for.


Keep in touch
It’s important to maintain contact with the employee during their period of absence, because if contact is not maintained the employee may feel isolated and be of the impression that the employer doesn’t care. However you must not maintain contact if it will exacerbate the illness such as in cases of work-related stress.

Seek the Doctor’s advice
When absence is prolonged and becomes long term, as an employer you may request a medical report, with the employee’s consent. This will provide you with a clear picture of the cause of the absence and what the future potentially holds. As part of the report, you may ask the doctor to advise whether the employee can carry out any duties and if a phased return on light duties would be appropriate. The doctor should also be asked for his or her opinion on the prognosis for the illness and whether further treatment will be necessary.

Ease them back in
When your employee is ready to return to work, ensure this is managed carefully. Start by holding a meeting with the employee to welcome them back, discuss the reason for absence and whether they foresee any issues that need to be addressed. If your employee is returning with a disability, you should consider whether any reasonable adjustments may be needed.

Keep sickness in check
For employees with recurring absences, address these sooner rather than later. For each instance conduct a return to work interview and discuss if you have noticed particular patterns to the sickness, such as the absence occurring on the same day every week. If the absences continue do not let them drift, but invoke a capability procedure. If the reasons for absence are not justified, you may find a disciplinary procedure more appropriate.

If you are currently experience staff sickness and need some legal advice, please contact Jonathan Moreland or Sharney Randhawa, by email on or call on 0191 384 2441.

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