What is attendance management?

Last reviewed on 08/03/2016 13:43

You can also find out about attendance management on the Fit For Work Scotland website (external website).

What does the law say about attendance management?

There is no law covering attendance management. However, recording and reporting accidents and ill health at work is a legal requirement under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR).

As well as the moral duty of employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation covers all employers and workplaces. Managers should review their health and safety arrangements whenever an employee is absent due to a work-related condition.

This should include reviewing work practices and risk assessments. You may find Health Profits is a good starting point if these are not topics that your workplace has considered before.

What are good practices in attendance management?

All employees should be made aware of their employer's sickness absence or attendance policy if available.

Procedures should be documented in a company handbook to ensure employees are aware of what procedure they should follow in the event of any episodes of absence. Effective attendance management should be a joint responsibility involving a team of professionals.

Such teams can consist of representatives from some, or all, of the following disciplines and roles (many of these services can be outsourced through from the NHS and other recognised bodies):

  • occupational health and safety
  • human resource or personnel
  • line managers
  • trade unions
  • training departments
  • counsellors
  • physiotherapists.

 Supporting attendance film

View our short video where various professionals talk about the importance of managing attendance in the workplace.

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Practices considered helpful in assisting employees to remain at or return to work include:

Have an attendance policy

Develop an attendance policy that applies to all of your staff. Consult with staff or their representatives throughout the process of policy development and keep the policy under review. The policy should set out expectations of staff and managers in the attendance management process.

Maintain a system for recording attendance (absence)

Adopt a system appropriate to the size of the organisation to record when and why staff are absent. Monitoring of this system will help identify potential problem areas for the organisation and individuals.

Include clear instructions on what is expected of staff and managers in requesting time off, reporting an unapproved absence and return to work procedures.

Regular contact from managers

Make it clear in your policy that managers will keep in touch with absent employees. This can be done by telephone and the employee should be expected to keep in touch with progress on their absence.

Return to work interviews

This is usually carried out by a line manager on first day back at work and consists of a face-to-face interview. Empower managers to do this with all un-authorised absence and ensure staff are fully aware of the process.

Temporary or permanent reduction in working hours

Reducing or altering a regular work pattern can prevent an absence or assist an employee back to work from a long absence. It may also prevent a recurrence of absence.

Temporary or permanent change in work tasks or workload

This is usually carried out in line with occupational health proposals when an employee would not be fit to carry out their own duties but could carry out other duties within the organisation for a specified period. This keeps them at work, being productive and engaged in the organisation.

Referral to an occupational health department

Occupational health practitioners can assist employers and employees to return to work and can help make sure employees are not made ill by their workplace.

Occupational health services are usually made available as an outsourced service to assist with specific activities, including pre-employment assessment, health surveillance, and attendance management. Occupational health services for individuals are also available privately and through some local NHS departments.

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Stress counselling/employee assistance programmes

Counseling services can assist employees to return to work when a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, has been the reason for absence.

Additional training on return

Additional training can assist employees back to work if they have been absent for an extended period or perhaps have had an accident in the workplace and require updated training on carrying out their duties safely.

Formal return to work programme

Vocational rehabilitation and return to work programmes can assist employees return to work whilst being monitored by either a line manager and or occupational health.

This involves communication between all parties and ensures that the employee is coping with the return to work. Regular updates and discussion between all parties can make this a very effective way to get staff back to work after illness.

Change in work equipment

Changing or adapting the work equipment may assist an employee back to work. Equipment may also need replaced where an accident investigation indicates that the equipment being used was unsafe or unsuitable.

Working from home

This option is often temporary and can be useful if the employee cannot physically be at work but is otherwise able to carry out work activity.

Access to physiotherapy

Some organisations use physiotherapy and other health professionals to quicken the return to work for muscular skeletal absences, i.e. in cases of backache, fractures, etc. Support for this process is available through the NHS Working Health Services service.

Fast referral to medical or intermediary care

Referral to medical care or intermediary services may speed up the process of accessing appointments with specialists and receiving treatment.

Support for this process is available through the NHS Working Health Services service (external link). If the employer has private medial cover or is prepared to pay for it on an adhoc basis, you may also be able to access these types of services privately.


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