Sickness Absence Policy Template

Published:

Feb 13, 2024

This sickness absence policy explains what sick pay an employee is entitled to and sets out the procedure for reporting and managing sickness absence.

Top Features of a Sickness Absence Policy Template

Sickness Absence Policies bring many features to the forefront when it comes to managing your employee's absences from the workplace. 

With some of the top features consist of the following:

✅ Provides both employees and managers with clear guidelines on handling sickness absence, reducing confusion and ensuring consistency in handling such situations.

✅ Helps manage and reduce overall absenteeism by addressing issues early and supporting employees' return to work, which can help with staff retention.

✅ Ensures that the organisation complies with relevant employment laws and regulations, reducing the risk of legal disputes related to sickness absence.

✅ Demonstrates a commitment to employee health and well-being - fostering a supportive work environment.

✅ By managing sickness absence effectively, the policy helps maintain productivity levels, ensuring that work is not significantly disrupted by unplanned absences.

✅ Allows for early identification and intervention in cases of frequent short-term absences or long-term health issues - thus helping reduce the absence duration.

✅ Ensures that all employees are treated fairly and consistently when dealing with sickness absence - reducing the potential for grievances.

Table of Contents

  • Why Sickness Absence Policies Are Needed

  • What is a Sickness Absence Policy?

  • What Makes up a Sickness Absence Policy Template?

  • Why is a Sickness Absence Policy Important?

  • How Often Should a Sickness Absence Policy Be Reviewed?

  • Can an Employee Appeal a Decision Made Under the Sickness Absence Policy?

  • What are the Common Pitfalls of a Sickness Absence Policy?

  • Access All Your Legal Templates in One Place


Why Sickness Absence Policies Are Needed

Sickness and absence are inevitable aspects of the workforce. It not only affects the individual employee but also impacts both your organisational productivity and morale. 

Therefore, crafting a comprehensive Sickness Absence Policy is crucial for your business to manage these absences effectively - ensuring both the well-being of employees and the smooth functioning of your operations. 

What is a Sickness Absence Policy?

A Sickness Absence Policy outlines the procedures and rules an organisation implements when one of your employees is absent due to illness.

It needs to detail the expectations from the employees during their absence and the support they can expect from you, the employer.

This policy is vital in setting transparent and fair standards for managing sickness absence - thus preventing confusion and potential disputes from occurring before they do.

What Makes up a Sickness Absence Policy Template?

There are several areas that make up a sickness absence policy template. 

For instance, these can include:

Policy Scope and Objectives

This section needs to define who the policy applies to and its primary goals - such as reducing absenteeism, supporting your employee health, and maintaining productivity.

Notification Procedures

Clearly outline how and when an employee should report a sickness absence. Include who they should contact, preferred methods of communication, and the timeline for notification, for instance.

Certification Requirements

This policy should detail the requirements for self-certification and when a medical certificate - AKA a "fit note" - is required.

For instance, in countries such as the UK, employees can self-certify for up to 7 days, after which a doctor's note is needed.

Sickness Absence Meetings

Ideally, This should include and describe the process for return-to-work interviews and periodic absence review meetings. 

These are crucial for understanding the employee's health situation and planning for their return - or if any adjustments are needed.

Support and Adjustments

This template should also outline available support mechanisms, such as occupational health assessments, and possible workplace adjustments for employees returning from long-term sickness.

Monitoring and Recording Absences

It can also need to explain how sickness absences will be recorded and monitored. 

Maintaining accurate records is crucial for identifying patterns and potential issues with your employees.

Confidentiality

Due to their medical nature, you must assure your employees that their medical information will be kept confidential and in line with regulations and other relevant legislation in your jurisdictions.

Sickness Absence Thresholds and Triggers

It could also include information about absence triggers that may lead to formal proceedings.

This should always be fair and consistent for all employees.

Long-Term Sickness Absence

Furthermore, it should outline the process for managing long-term sickness - including potential interventions like phased returns to work - and the conditions under which employment may be terminated.

Policy Review and Amendment

Finally, the policy will be reviewed periodically and amended in response to feedback or changes in legislation.

Why is a Sickness Absence Policy Important?

Employees must know the procedures and requirements for reporting and managing sickness absences. 

Without a straightforward procedure in place, which covers things like reporting processes, providing evidence of incapacity, return to work interviews and a requirement to undergo a medical examination - in some situations - it is more likely that employees can falsely claim that they are unable to attend work due to sickness.

Consequently, it will be easier to manage employees with persistent short-term absences if one is in place. 

It is also essential to make clear that abuse of sickness absence - for example, failing to report an absence or falsely claiming sick pay - would be treated as misconduct under your company’s disciplinary procedure.

Key Areas to Be Covered Under a Sickness Absence Policy Explained 

Key areas that can be included in your sickness absence policy can consist of, for instance:

Who Does the Sickness Absence Policy Apply To?

The policy typically applies to all employees of an organisation, although specific procedures may vary depending on the employee's role or contract type.

How Should an Employee Report a Sickness Absence?

Employees should follow their organisation's specified procedure, usually involving notifying their supervisor or HR department via phone or email within a set time frame.

Ideally, this should be laid out in your policy.

What is Self-certification for Sickness Absence?

Self-certification is when an employee informs their employer of their sickness and its expected duration without a medical certificate needed - this is typically allowed for short-term absences.

When is a Medical Certificate Required for Sickness Absence?

This varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the UK, for example, a medical certificate (or fit note) from a doctor is required if the sickness absence exceeds 7 consecutive days, including weekends and holidays.

For instance, this can be much lower in the US at only 3 days.

What is a return-to-work interview?

A return-to-work interview is a meeting which typically is held between an employee and their manager after a period of sickness absence.

This meeting is crucial to head off any further absences and ideally looks to discuss:

  • The employee's current and ongoing health

  • Any workplace adjustments needed

  • Update on workplace developments while the employee was off

How Does the Organisation Support Employees Returning From Long-Term Sickness?

Support can include adjustments to work duties or hours, phased return plans, and access to occupational health services if relevant.

Are Sickness Absences Confidential?

Yes, details about an employee's health are confidential and should be handled by GDPR in the EU, the UK, and other privacy laws in different parts of the world.

What Happens if an Employee Frequently Takes Sick Leave?

If an employee's sickness absence exceeds certain thresholds or patterns, it may trigger a formal review process to understand the underlying causes and seek solutions to better help the employee and lessen the impact on the company.

Can an Employee be Dismissed for Too Many Sickness Absences?

Dismissal can occur in cases of long-term sickness absence, but only after thorough review processes, considering all alternatives, and ensuring compliance with employment law.

How Should Sickness Absences be Recorded and Monitored?

Sickness absences are recorded in an employee's record. The organisation should then monitor these records to identify patterns or trends requiring further attention.

Does an Employee Get Paid During Sickness Absence?

This depends on the organisation's policy, the employee's contract and the jurisdiction you and your employee fall under.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a minimum requirement in the UK for example, but some employers can also offer enhanced sick pay schemes.

What are an Employee’s Rights During Long-term Sickness Absence?

Employees typically at least have rights to fair treatment, consideration of adjustments for their return, and protection against discrimination based on their health condition.

How Often Should a Sickness Absence Policy Be Reviewed?

The frequency of policy review varies by the organisation but should be done regularly to ensure compliance with current laws and best practices.

Can an Employee Appeal a Decision Made Under the Sickness Absence Policy?

Yes, employees should have the right to appeal decisions, and the policy should outline the process for doing so.

What are the Common Pitfalls of a Sickness Absence Policy?

There are a lot of common pitfalls when it comes to a sickness absence policy. 

Some of these can consist of, for instance:

Not having a Sickness Absence Policy in The First Place

Without a sickness absence policy in place, an employer may not be complying with Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 - which could lead to financial penalties in an Employment Tribunal down the line.

It may also lead to a need for clarity over expectations and requirements in relation to sickness absence with your employees - which could easily lead to disputes.

Having one may also make it easier for an employer to manage your staff's persistent short-term absence and long-term sickness absences.

Having a Sickness Absence Policy That Contradicts the Employment Contract

It is essential to ensure that your sickness absence policy is consistent with the sickness absence clauses in the employment contract - to guarantee that they do not conflict, or contradict each other. 

This could lead to uncertainty and disputes with employees if they do.

Having a Contractual Sickness Absence Policy

The employment contract contains the terms and conditions that govern an employee’s employment. 

Generally, changes can only be made to it with the consent of both parties. 

Usually, as an employer, you will want to make changes to your policies and procedures regularly - and in certain situations, you may like to avoid following them to the letter.

For these reasons, it is usually advisable for the sickness absence policy to be non-contractual - so that it does not form part of the employment contract and changes can be made. 

Otherwise, it will need to obtain staff agreement to any changes, however small.

Therefore, This policy should clearly state that it is not contractual, i.e., it does not form part of the employment contract.

Including too much legalese and detail

The best policies are clear, concise and easy to navigate and understand. 

Policies that are long, unwieldy and full of jargon are unlikely to be used or understood.

Ready to get started?

Create your sickness absence policy in minutes, as the Pocketlaw platform offers you AI-powered drafting support and a clever contract management system, as well as the ability to turn your standard templates into dynamic work flows, by automating your your own legal templates and using eSigning.

Disclaimer:
Please note: Pocketlaw is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. So, should you have any legal questions on the content of this page, please get in touch with a qualified legal professional.

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