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Managing Sickness Absence

Why is managing attendance important for employees?

Work is essential to health, wellbeing and self-esteem. When ill health causes long-term sickness absence, a downward spiral of depression, social isolation and delayed recovery makes returning to work less likely.

Why is managing attendance important for employers?

Working to reduce long-term sickness absence helps maintain a healthy and productive business and workforce as well as safeguarding jobs.

Steps to Consider for Managing Absence:

  • Record absence to help identify absence patterns and contingency planning 
  • Have a clear policy that applies to all levels of staff and ensure that your policy is fair. 
  • Keep in contact with staff during absence to avoid employees feeling isolated and undervalued.
  • Plan and make workplace adjustments  to return staff to existing jobs, or alternative duties, and proactively remove any obstacles to a return to work. 
  • Make use of professional advice to help support the return to work process. 
  • Agree and review a return to work plan that is timely for the employee, and states clear objectives, review points, and information on any alternative working arrangements. 
  • Appoint a single point of contact to coordinate the return to work process to establish clear communications.

Impacts of Absence on your Organisation

Sickness absence can significantly impact on the performance and productivity of an organisation. Below are some key facts about the impacts of sickness absence:

  • 131 million working days were lost to the UK economy due to sickness in 2013. 
  • Good absence management can reduce the length of time employees are off work - an average period of absence is approximately 17 days. 
  • Reducing your absence rates can save you money – it is estimated that total costs associated with staff turnover can reach £8,000 per employee. 
  • Proactive management of absence can help employers deal with the worsening situation as it is expected employers will shoulder the majority of the economic burden associated with ageing workforces, increasing rates of chronic disease, and pressure on the NHS system.


ONS – sickness absence in labour market , 2014, HSE, 2005Mowbray D. (2008) , Vaughan-Jones H. and Barham L. (2009).  Healthy Work: Challenges and Opportunities to 2030  Bupa: London, Black C. (2008), Working for a Healthier Tomorrow . The Stationery Office: Norwich

Fit for Work Podcast


Sickness absence can significantly impact on the performance and productivity of an organisation and stats show that over 140 million working days in the UK are lost because of sickness or injury. GP, Dr Chris Price speaks to Geraint Hardy about what employers need to do to best manage sickness absence, including proactive use of the fit note.


Useful Links:

Public Health Wales:

Fit Note Guidance:

Updates and Further Information