All you need to know in detail
In NHSGGC we encourage our managers to be supportive while trying to ensure the employee can return to work as quickly as is appropriate. You also need to gather the right information so that you have accurate records to help tackle any sickness absence problems in your team.
Attendance management essentials
Make sure employees know what to do when reporting in sick
You must have a clear, well-communicated reporting procedure for when a member of your team calls in sick. This will help to ensure you get the information you need to keep the service running and tackle any future problems. Make sure employees are aware of the reporting procedure to avoid any misunderstandings.
Referrals, support and advice
You need to know the reporting procedure and who is responsible for reporting and referrals (if this is someone else in the team).
Make sure you have up to date contact details for Occupational Health services and know how to make a referral.
For HR advice contact the HR Support & Advice Unit.
To keep your team up to date, discuss the reporting procedure at the next team meeting so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to how it works. This will also reinforce the message that absence reporting is about looking after employee wellbeing and ensuring the team is supported.
Employees must inform their line manager at the earliest opportunity before their starting time and no later than within one hour after their scheduled starting time.
Every time one of your team calls in sick, consistently gather this key information. Always ask your staff 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?
- Details of any GP appointments
You must also agree when the employee is to contact you (or another manager) with an update on illness and return to work information. Remember to keep a record of this using the absence notification form.
What else can you do to support the employee?
Depending on the reason the employee gives, you may also want to find out:
- Are there any adjustments that you could make that would enable to employee to come to work?
- If the illness is infectious, is there a specific period of time that they need to remain off work once they are symptom free?
- If the reason for absence is musculoskeletal, the employee should be directed to the Physiotherapy self referral option on HRConnect.
- Before making a referral, staff must check that they meet the criteria and then complete and submit a self referral form.
- If the reason for absence is related to a mental health issue, consider a referral to the counselling service or refer the employee to our self-help pages on HRConnect.
- If they are fit to work but physically unable to come in, is there another area they can work in or could they work from home?
Record keeping essentials
It is your responsibility to maintain records of sickness absences, including conversations with employees while they are off sick and any meetings you have following those absences.
If you notice an error in recording make sure you raise it so it can be corrected.
Over time, accurate records will enable you to spot any patterns of absence or themes within the reasons for absence. This will allow you to have a balanced, fact-based conversation with employees about any worrying trends. It may even help you to facilitate early intervention to prevent bigger problems, for example physiotherapy for a bad back.
Listen and support
Listening at this stage is key. This seems obvious but when you are busy the importance of listening can sometimes be forgotten. If this was you ringing in sick, how would you feel and what would you want your manager to say?
It may be that all you need to do is to listen, wish them well and agree either when they will be back or when you will next be in touch.
Listening carefully, reserving judgement and allowing staff the time to discuss things further if needed will ensure they feel fully supported.
Practice your effective listening skills to develop your confidence in handling these conversations.
Keep in contact
If your employee is going to be off for more than a day you must discuss how often you will keep in touch and who will contact who. Knowing when you’ll next be in touch will reassure them and enable you to:
- review whether you can do anything within NHSGGC to support them
- plan how to cover their workload and keep the service running
- discuss dates and options for your employee’s return to work.
Consider reasonable adjustments
Usually an employee will be able to return to their role and work environment. However, you may need to ask if any adjustments could be made to allow them to return to work and/or prevent further absences.
The sooner you have this conversation, the more time you will have to arrange for the support, equipment or adjustments needed. Making adjustments could also mean your employee could return to work sooner.
See our section on ‘Making Reasonable Adjustments’.
Keep up to date with our additional guidance and advice on topics like reasonable adjustments. And remember to take advice from Occupational and HR when you need to. We’re here to support you and your team when you need us.