Absence due to illness can be tricky to handle as an employer, as a majority of it is unplanned and the responsibility of ensuring the ill-employee’s work is covered falls on your shoulders; whether that’s making an arrangement with colleagues, contacting clients or stepping in yourself. 

While the average illness-related absence is the lowest it’s ever been at 4.3 days per employee per year (compared to it being 7.2 days in 1993), the losses from illness is huge, as we’ve previously reported that it costs the UK economy a staggering £73 billion annually.

Here are some ways to handle and manage illness and absence from your employees to hopefully reduce financial loss and stress caused by it.

Keep track

First and foremost, keep track of illness-related absences in terms of who, how often and nature of. This way, you can identify leading causes (which may be due to workplace design or strategy), trends and patterns and uncover underlying problems.

Have a policy in place

Ensure every employee is aware of the sickness policy you have in place. This will include information on how to report illness formally, how many paid sick-days employees are entitled to and who to talk to if an illness is prolonged or worsens, amongst other things. Highlight options for those who have to take time off, and the procedure when returning to work, whether that is a return-to-work interview, doctors’ notes or contract adjustments.


Talking to employees is arguably the best way to develop understanding and often solve issues. Gain trust in your employees by regularly checking in on their physical and mental health, and encourage honesty if work is making them ill (due to stress, workload or work environment etc.)

If an employee has a long-term illness which requires regular doctors’ appointments or more days off, communication will ensure you’re in the loop and in a position to offer support. This support may be an arrangement for flexible or remote working, for example.

Addressing issues

If you feel an employee is taking too many sporadic days off and breaking the absence policy, keep track and talk one-to-one about this with them. Again, there may be an underlying problem such as discontentedness, stress or a genuine health issue that you’re unaware of.

If things do not improve after meeting with the individual – even if efforts have been made from your part - a formal warning system may be effective in solving the issue.

Ensuring absence is monitored and dealt with correctly and employees are fit, healthy and happy at work is essential in maintaining smooth and effective business.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with her love of writing about anything and everything in tow.

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