Getting ill is a part of life and if you are in employment or are an employer yourself, having the right policy for absence is vital for running your business and keeping staff safe, healthy, and happy.

But with pitfalls on both sides, how do you manage absences effectively? We’ll dig into this and more in our guide to absence notification in the workplace.

How to report absences?

If you are an employee and become too sick to work, then you will need to let your employer know somehow. In most cases, the company will have clear guidelines on who you should contact and how this should be done. More often than not it will require a phone call to one of your supervisors, line managers, or, in the case of larger businesses, a human resource department.

When you speak to the designated contact they will take basic details such as the nature of the illness, how long you think you will be off, and whether you are in contact with a doctor. They may also discuss support requirements for when you get back to work and if there are any forms they require on return, such as a doctor’s note or self-certificate.

What is the standard sickness reporting procedure’ based on UK laws?

In UK law the process for reporting sickness is not set in stone and is generally dictated by the needs and policies of the employer. As mentioned above, reporting illness generally takes the form of contacting a designated manager or employee and giving them brief details of the reason why you cannot work.

After the sickness is reported, however, there are a number of laws that both the employee and employer need to abide by:

  • If the employee is absent for more than 7 days in a row, they will need a ‘fit note’ detailing their illness and whether they are fit and able to return to work.
  • If the employee is absent for less than 7 days in a row, the employer can still require that they fill in something called a self-certificate to detail the illness.
  • The employer must still provide statutory holiday entitlement accruement during illness and cannot reduce the number of hours available due to sickness.
  • An employer must make sure that all measures necessary to support sick staff are taken to facilitate their return to work, especially if the person is disabled.

Who authorizes absences in the workplace?

Generally, it will be a manager in your department or in your HR team who will note and authorize sickness absences.

How do management measure and monitor absences?

Again, there is no set legal framework for monitoring absences, but most workplaces will have measures set in place to keep an eye on employee sickness. This often takes the form of clear guidelines on how the number of sick days is recorded as well as detailing trigger points where repeated absence may lead to disciplinary action.

How can employees defend against harassment from employers due to absences?

Your employer is expected to allow a reasonable amount of time for you to recover from any illness you have. If they harass an employee to return to work or even threaten dismissal without doing this, they can be taken to tribunal. If this happens to you then your first point of call should be to contact your employer and advise them that you think they are harassing you. If this doesn’t work, then you should contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre for advice. They can point you in the direction of a solicitor who will guide you on the next legal steps that you can take.

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