How to manage absenteeism

  1. 1 Set a policy requiring employees to call in and notify the company of any absences. Ask employees to speak to their supervisor, if possible, rather than leaving a message.
  2. 2 Meet with employees on their return to work: make sure they are fully recovered, bring them up to date and, if necessary, clarify the reason for the absence.
  3. 3 Check whether you can implement any changes to working practices or working environment to reduce further illness, for example, ergonomic seating or longer breaks.
  4. 4 Clarify what evidence you require for claims of illness (eg self-certification or a doctor's 'Fit Note'); ensure this is covered in employment contracts.
  5. 5 Include illegitimate absenteeism as a disciplinary offence.
  6. 6 Treat employees with genuine reasons sympathetically; respect the legal rights of employees suffering from long-term illness or disability.
  7. 7 Monitor individual absenteeism.
  8. 8 Monitor overall absence levels, for example as a percentage of total working time.
  9. 9 Analyse any significant correlations, for example, high levels of absenteeism on Mondays or among a particular group of employees.
  10. 10 Do not check potential new recruits’ sickness and attendance records until you have made a job offer unless fitness for a specific task is intrinsic to that role, you are asking questions for monitoring purposes or you are checking whether reasonable adjustments are required.
  11. 11 Motivate employees so that they want to work; aim to provide fulfilling work and development opportunities.
  12. 12 Create a climate of open communication and trust so that employees approach supervisors with problems rather than just calling in sick.
  13. 13 Check that you are providing healthy working conditions: ensure that you have good lighting, ventilation, and safe working practices.
  14. 14 Consider providing an employee health scheme or offering training in healthy lifestyles and stress management.
  15. 15 Draw up family-friendly policies to allow employees to legitimately take personal time off when they need it. Working parents with children aged sixteen and under (or under 18 in the case of disabled children) are entitled to request flexible working.
  16. 16 Ensure that managers lead by example.

Cardinal rules


  • establish clear rules and let employees know you treat absenteeism seriously
  • try to analyse underlying causes of absenteeism
  • look for positive ways to encourage attendance and reduce illness
  • set a good example


  • ignore absenteeism
  • attempt to override the rights of employees who suffer from long-term illness or disability
  • ask potential recruits about attendance and health unless it is intrinsic to the role, is for monitoring purposes or to provide reasonable adjustments