Tips for managing sickness absence

  • Make sure staff know how to report and record sickness absence.
  • Stay in regular contact with absent employees.
  • Regularly discuss health, wellbeing and attendance with staff.
  • Take the time to welcome staff back on the first day, even after short absences
  • Take prompt action when absence levels become a cause for concern
  • Monitor attendance regularly.
  • Deal with ill health sensitively and confidentially
  • Seek advice from HR and Occupational Health where appropriate
  • Understand your obligations under the Equality Act for disabled staff and those with long-term health conditions.

What to do when staff report in sick

  1. Employees must phone within an hour of their normal start time to tell you they won’t be at work. Text messages or emails are not acceptable.
  2. If an employee doesn’t arrive and you haven’t heard from them, contact them to ensure no cause for concern.
  3. When you speak to the employee, find out why they are absent, how long they are likely to be away and if any meetings or work needs to be covered.
  4. Ensure the sickness is recorded.

Absence of seven calendar days or more

  1. Employees must provide you with a ‘fit note’ from their doctor if they are absent for seven days or more. If you don’t receive a fit note, contact the employee and ask them to provide one.
  2. A fit note must cover the entire period of absence until they return to work.
  3. Take a copy of the fit note and return the original to the employee.
  4. If work adjustments are recommended on the fit note, consider what you can accommodate. Discuss with the employee. Focus on what an employee can do rather than what they can’t, even if it involves changes to their duties or hours for a while. This can often avoid prolonged absence and support an earlier return to full duties.

Return to work meetings/interviews

There is evidence that the consistent practice of meeting with employees on the day they return to work, regardless of how long they’ve been absent, is highly effective in promoting good attendance and keeping absence rates down.

  1. Arrange to meet. It doesn’t need to be a long, formal ‘interview’ and only takes a few minutes.
  2. Welcome them back, let them know they have been missed
  • Make sure they are well enough to resume their duties
  • Explore whether they have any ongoing health problems
  • If they have been away for a long time, update them about work and plan a re-induction
  • If there are ongoing health issues, if they are disabled or if a GP has recommended a phased return, identify and record any adjustments you agree to.
  • Keep a note of your conversation.

Occupational Health and Employee Assistance Programme

You can refer an employee to Occupational Health at any time if you think they would benefit from support or if you want to seek advice about their health. Talk to the employee about the referral.

Employees can also find support through the Employee Assistance Programme, which includes free confidential counselling.

Sick pay entitlement

Sick pay entitlement for teachers and support staff are different. The school is responsible for writing to employees to notify them when entitlement to contractual pay will be reduced. See Sickness entitlement template letter (docx format, 25Kb)

Ensure IBC is notified when the employee returns to work to avoid pay errors.

More information

If you have concerns about an employee’s health and attendance at work and are unsure what to do, seek advice from the Education Personnel Service.