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A Comprehensive Guide to Attendance Management



A Comprehensive Guide to Attendance Management

This site has been developed using content adapted from NHS Employers' action on sickness absence web section.



The NHS Scotland Staff Governance Standard explains that NHS Boards will “...proactively inform and support staff to manage and maintain their health, and to manage ill health.”

As a people manager in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde you are responsible for promoting the health and wellbeing of our employees.

This responsibility includes dealing with employees when they call in sick. Your response when an employee calls in sick can make a big difference to how they feel about their work.

All you need to know in 30 seconds

In your role as a manager part of your role will be to deal with employee sickness. The way you respond when an employee calls in sick can make a difference to how they feel about work. It could even affect the length of this, and future, absences.


Your role is to be supportive while ensuring you have the information you need to keep things running.

Always ask the employee the following questions:

  • What’s the reason for the absence?
  • How long do you think you’re likely to be off?
  • Is there any work you’ve been doing that needs to be picked up while you’re off?
  • Use the Absence Notification form to record the details of the absence

Listening is key. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you might feel and what you would want your manager to say and do.  ACAS has some useful advice for managers dealing with this type of situation.

Make sure you log the absence and the reason so that if a pattern develops you will be able to identify and evidence this. To do this, you must use the absence notification form for record keeping and keep a copy in the employee’s personal file.

All you need to know in detail >


All you need to know in 30 seconds

Short-term sickness is a period of absence lasting less than 28 days. Frequent short-term sickness absence can be disruptive to teams and services. It can also indicate a bigger problem with an individual or wider problems within your team.

Spotting problems early will enable you to put the right support in place. To do this you’ll need to:

  • Consider the Board's policies for managing absence contained in this site.
  • Know when to access HR support, e.g. Clinics under Tools & Resources
  • Review the absence history of your staff regularly and look for any patterns.
  • Discuss anything you notice with your employees to identify any underlying causes.
  • If there are underlying health problems, or this is suspected, refer to Occupational Health (OH)
  • Discuss health and wellbeing with your team to encourage them to be aware of looking after themselves physically and mentally.

If you do find a pattern, discuss it with the employee. Often, just having a conversation is enough to alert them to the need to address any underlying causes or behaviour. The following triggers are outlined in the Attendance Management Policy:

  • 4 episodes of absence in a rolling 12 month period (all episodes of absences that occur, both long term and short term should be counted in the rolling 12 month period including any relevant periods or patterns of absence prior to the 12 month period. For complex cases this can be up to the previous 5 years).
  • 8 working days of short term sickness absence in a rolling 12 month period.

When employees reach trigger points consideration should be given to a Formal Absence Review meeting.

NB. Episodes of absence should not be pro-rated for part-time employees when reviewing whether an employee has reached a Trigger Point.

Any relevant periods or patterns of absence prior the 12 month rolling period should also be considered where short term absence has taken place year on year.

If no underlying issue is evident, you should be clear with the employee their attendance is giving cause for concern, that there is a need for it to be improved to meet the standard required, and you should advise them that it will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. You should also advise them that where the pattern of attendance continues to fall below the standard required, this may be progressed under the terms of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Disciplinary Policy. Specific advice in relation to the conduct of Disciplinary processes relating to Attendance Management can be found in the Disciplinary Hearing section.

Spotting problems early will enable you to put the right support in place. You can access a simple to use flowchart for managing frequent absence.

All you need to know in detail >


All you need to know in 30 seconds

In NHSGGC we encourage our managers to be supportive while trying to ensure the employee can return to work as quickly as is appropriate.

As a manager you have a vital role in supporting employees who are experiencing long term absence to maintain contact and have a connection with the workplace. It can be a difficult time for you and the employee – a key challenge for you will be in ensuring that the employee’s work is picked up and there is no detrimental effect to the service whilst you are doing all you can to facilitate their return to work.

Long term absence is defined as all periods of absence of 28 or more calendar days.

Key steps for an absence lasting more than 28 days:

  1. Where the employee’s medical circumstances permit, agree a frequency and method of contact with the employee, dependant on the circumstances of the case. In cases of long term absence you should aim to meet with the employee on a 4 weekly basis.
  2. Learn about the condition affecting employees and seek advice from appropriate sources on how best to support the employee.
  3. In cases of traumatic injury or, sudden serious illness or disability use your discretion until the longer-term prognosis becomes clearer. You may need to discuss with relatives or, other carers the best time to contact the employee in the initial stages.
  4. Where the employee is unable due to illness, injury or disability to remain in touch, you may agree an alternative method and frequency of contact appropriate to the individual circumstances. For example, use of e-mail or, letter or, obtaining information on their health, wellbeing and likely length of absence from a spouse or, relative.
  5. If the employee is undergoing planned treatment, such as surgery, agree the Keeping in Touch process prior to the employee stopping work.
  6. Familiarise yourself with the Board’s policies and procedures for Attendance Management, improving wellbeing in the workplace (see Staff Health – A Healthier Place to Work), and work with Occupational Health at all stages.
  7. It is also important for you to be aware of the provisions under the Equalities Act 2010 when dealing with sickness absence (insert hyperlink to Guidance Section of HRConnect ‘Equalities Act 2010’.
  8. Be aware of the Occupational Sick Pay Entitlements.  Plan for the employee’s return to work, in collaboration with the employee and Occupational Health and identify any reasonable adjustments to support and sustain a return to work. Should the employee be unable to return to their current working environment/role familiarise yourself with future options available such as the use of redeployment or if no return is possible, ill health retirement possibilities.

You can access a simple to use flowchart for managing long term absence.

All you need to know in detail >





Last Updated: 07 May 2019