Managing Absence

Absence is a direct cost to any business – either in terms of ‘sick pay’, loss of productivity, or both. It may not be possible to achieve ‘zero’ absence. People will be unwell, and it is important to support those who are genuinely unable to attend to work, but you need to monitor absence and remain in control. 

The first step in reducing absence is to monitor it and to have a clear absence policy.

Some organisations include trigger points in their absence policy, where a procedure or conversations are automatically started when absence reaches a certain level. Some organisations use measurements like the Bradford Factor to distinguish between short term frequent absence and long-term absence.

Clear Monitoring

With clear monitoring you can manage any problem areas and stay in control.  You will be able to address problems at an earlier stage and this can reduce frustration and the level of absence.

Managing Absence – Have a Clear Policy

Have a clear policy on how you will manage any long-term or short-term absences. Be clear about how and when people need to report any absence and what certification or fit notes they need to provide and when. Make it clear what is and is not acceptable. Be clear about what payments will be made if someone is absent.


You should also clearly communicate your rules around other absence.  This will include bereavement or compassionate leave, jury service leave or other non-sickness related absences.

Managing absence may also necessitate the need to take medical advice (e.g. from Occupational Health) to help you make informed decisions.

Ultimately, if an individual is not capable of performing their job role and fulfilling their contract of employment, due to sickness absence or an underlying medical condition, you can take appropriate action, following the right procedures.

Next Steps and Further Reading

Use the templates and guidance on to put in place clear absence monitoring procedures and appropriate policies and guidelines.

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1. Introduction to Absence

2. Strategies to Manage Absence

3. Medical Capability

4. Medical Capability Procedure

5. Unauthorised Absence

6. The Bradford Factor

7. Occupational Health

8. Long COVID

Case Study – Managing Absence

Templates & Downloads

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