Thursday, 17 October 2019 21:51

Unplanned Absence Notification

As we enter the time of year when sniffs, sneezes and coughs become more prevalent, we’re likely to see an increase in staff absence due to illness. With advances made in technology over recent years, and in particular in mobile communications, there may be a temptation for employees to use the likes of text messaging, Whatsapp or Twitter to notify their boss of an absence. However, we still recommend that as an employer, you insist that employees telephone and speak to their line manager if they are not going to turn into work because of sickness or an emergency.

Employers are in fact entitled to be very specific about the time by which they must be informed, and who or what level of management must be told if an unplanned absence occurs.

Staff absence will impact different organisations to different extents. For some, one or two staff members’ unexpected absence may not affect productivity significantly and their duties might be temporarily shared around other employees for a few days or simply wait until they return to work.

Other businesses and industries don’t have that luxury. An engineering firm’s entire productivity may be halted if a key component can’t be produced because it relies on a specific machine operator’s skills. Or a day nursery may compromise its child to adult ratio if they are unable to replace an absent nursery nurse at short notice.

The company policy regarding absence notification should be published in the organisation’s staff handbook and be clear and unambiguous.

It should state the time by which the company should be informed of unscheduled absence, eg within 30 minutes of the commencement of the employee’s shift or even prior to the shift starting. It should also state who should be informed; the employee’s line manager, or an equivalent or superior if the line manager is unavailable.

We further recommend that the absence policy states how the employee should communicate their absence and this should be by telephone.

Mobile messaging negates the ability to hold a proper conversation. The employee’s wellbeing should be of concern for the employer, who has a duty of care. A telephone conversation allows for a proper understanding of the employee’s situation and could be an early alert to some other underlying medical condition.

If there is a possibility that the absence could be for an extended period of time, a one-to-one conversation creates an opportunity to agree channels of communication during this period.

And of course, there should be a discussion around workload, priorities and deadlines. If a customer is waiting for a job or an order to be completed that the employee has some responsibility for then this information needs to be shared so that the organisation can manage the workflow. The employee is contracted to deliver a job and whilst illness may temporarily prevent fulfilment of that contract, a duty remains.

You might even consider that your policy goes as far as explicitly excluding the use of e-mail, social media or mobile platforms to notify of absence so that there is no doubt.

If you are making changes to your staff handbook to incorporate a stringent absence notification policy, ensure that your employees are made aware of the changes and have access to a copy of the document. As usual, if you need any help with your contracts or handbooks or implementing policies and procedures in the workplace, we’re available on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 1623 times Last modified on Thursday, 17 October 2019 22:01


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