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Developing an Absence Policy

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 3 Oct 2014 | comments*Discuss
Developing An Absence Policy

Employee absence is a significant problem for companies across the UK. It is estimated that employee absence costs companies an average of around £650 per employee per year; regardless of the size of your organisation, this is clearly a hefty financial burden.

Many companies are developing more progressive strategies for dealing with absence; these frequently include relatively new disciplines such as health assessments or Employee Assistance Programmes. As an employer you will need to develop a series of cohesive policies that clearly establish the practices that you will follow when running your organisation. Perhaps the most fundamental of these is your standard employment contract and policy.

However, producing a clear employee absence policy should be at the forefront of your mind as a new or existing employer.


On a basic level, an employee absence policy codifies the rules and procedures that are put in place to monitor and deal with employee absence.

This absence could be sick leave, unauthorised leave, holiday, or miscellaneous absence. The policy should show the rights and responsibilities of both employer and employee; both have statutory rights and responsibilities, and a truly cohesive absence policy will reference and explain these, but will also demonstrate additional procedures that are put in place at your discretion. Clearly, these additional procedures must be within the bounds of the law.

The advantages of developing an absence policy are manifold; in the first instance, this will demonstrate to your staff that you have an awareness and understanding of the necessity for occasional absence, and that you treat this matter seriously. This means that you recognise employees' rights, but also expect them to abide by certain rules and behave in a certain way.

Furthermore, an efficiently developed and communicated absence policy can help to reduce unnecessary absence, as employees will be made aware of the necessity for them to abide by these rules.


In the first instance, it should be remembered that any absence policy should be developed after an audit of your existing situation, and in close coordination with workers' representatives.

No two absence policies will be exactly the same; for example, it may be appropriate for some businesses to allow workers to be absent from work in exchange for a pay sacrifice, while in other cases this would not be possible or desirable.

Regardless, however, there are a number of elements that can be expected to appear in most absence policies. Primary amongst these is an explanation of when absence is to be permitted. For example, you should codify your position on absence related to family crises.

Similarly, your policy should definitely explain employees' responsibilities for notifying the company of their absence, and the ways in which they should go about this.

As has been mentioned, your absence policy should explain employees' statutory position – for example, it should contain details of statutory sick pay, and explain when the period in which they are entitled to this will end. Importantly, your policy should also clearly define the stages that will be followed, and the steps that will be taken, if you believe that an employee's absenteeism is unreasonably high. You should explain exactly when warnings will be issued and, in the most severe cases, when dismissal will be considered.

Developing a suitable and effective employee absence policy is a long process. However, the ACAS service can offer advice and templates to get you started.

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