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Short term absence is one of the biggest costs to any business operation. Short term absence can account for up to as much as 85% of overall workforce absence. This fact sheet addresses the law relating to short term absence and aims to give practical advice to employers on how to manage this problem.


Attendance should be dealt with at every level of management and should be taken very seriously. Short term absence poses a more significant disruption to the smooth running of a business than long term absence.


The Unfair Dismissals Acts generally deem all dismissals unfair and it is up to the employer to prove that the dismissal was fair. A dismissal is deemed to be fair if it is as a result of the employee?s capability. However, for a dismissal to be fair an employer must have had no choice other than to dismiss the employee and the employee must have been aware at every step of the disciplinary process that the issue of their capability might lead to ultimate dismissal.


Short term absence & disciplinary action

In order to discipline an employee for short term absences the employer must be in a position to show that the employee had a continuing pattern of short term absences over a protracted period of time. Following informal and formal warnings if the employee shows no sign of improvement and the level of absenteeism is such that the employer could not be expected to put up with it then the disciplinary procedures should be invoked.


The employer should firstly have counselling sessions or informally warn the employee that the high level of short term absences is unacceptable and that unless there is an improvement formal disciplinary procedures will be invoked.


The employer should take all steps to ascertain the medical position of the employee and should acquaint himself/herself with all the relevant medical information. If there is no improvement the employee should be invited to a disciplinary meeting. The high level of absenteeism, its affect on the company, its unacceptability and its disruption to the smooth running of the employer?s business should be put to the employee and the consequences of failing to improve should also be clearly outlined.


The employee should be given a reasonable time to improve and if there is no improvement the employee should be invited to a further disciplinary hearing and given a further warning. The employee should be made aware at every step of the procedures that ultimately failure to improve could lead to his/her dismissal.



There are a number of steps that can be taken by employers to manage short term absenteeism and they are as follows:-


? Absence management should take place across the organisation and in this regard line managers should play a very important role.


? An employee?s absences should be recorded and return to work interviews should be set up to establish the reason for the employee?s absence.


? Training should be provided for line managers and supervisors in absence management and organisations should take a look at the overall picture and look at how employees perceive their working environment.


To talk to an employment specialist about any employment matter contact LawPlus Employment today or view our employment law Fixed Fee Service.

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