Managing Health at Work Partnership Information Network (PIN) Guideline

This Guideline emphasises the need for employers to promote and support employee health and wellbeing and includes sections on issues that affect the health and safety of staff in their everyday work.


Model Promoting Attendance policy and procedures
1 Introduction

1.1 The aim of this policy is to make sure that managers throughout [Name of organisation] adopt a fair, consistent and supportive approach to staff with genuine health problems and to make sure that sickness absence levels are maintained within levels acceptable to [Name of organisation].

1.2 While [Name of organisation] aims to secure the attendance of all staff, we recognise that a certain level of absence due to sickness may occur and that the sensitive management of health problems and the promotion of good health contributes to the retention of staff. We also recognise that there will be occasions where, after consideration, staff who cannot attend work due to their health problems may not be able to continue working.

1.3 This policy and its procedures have been developed and agreed through the local Partnership Forum.

2 Scope

The policy and procedures apply to all managers and staff within [Name of organisation].

3 Policy

3.1 All staff have an entitlement to sick leave and pay in accordance with their terms and conditions of service. There will not normally be any extension of sick pay provisions.

3.2 Staff whose health problems give cause for concern may be dealt with under the procedure for management of health problems ( see Annex 1).

3.3 Failure to adhere to absence reporting procedures, poor attendance or abuse of the sick leave provisions may, however, be dealt with under our policy for the 'Management of Employee Conduct'.

3.4 Any cases involving alcohol, drug or substance abuse should be referred to our policy on dealing with alcohol, drug and substance problems.

4 Responsibility

4.1 Managers' responsibilities

  • The responsibility for management of ill health ultimately lies with the manager for his or her own area. Managers will be aware of the importance of our commitment to deliver a high quality service, and clearly unacceptably high absence levels can hinder this by disrupting the department's work progress.

  • Managers should make sure that staff have been issued with and understand instructions for how to report absence ( see Annex 2). Managers should also make sure that the absence reporting procedure is fully explained to new staff during departmental induction.

  • It is important that managers and staff keep in regular contact, particularly during long-term absence, to make sure that the manager is fully aware of progress and likely duration of absence. The manager should be sensitive to the staff member's circumstances and while it is important to demonstrate real and proper concern for the staff member, the level of contact should be at a level which is appropriate to the circumstances and avoids being intrusive.

  • Managers are expected to record accurate individual absence information for all staff including the duration and reason for absence, and a note of all discussions relating to this. In addition they will maintain statistical information on absence rates within their department ( see Annex 3).

  • Managers are responsible for making sure that sickness absence levels are reviewed on a regular basis, to be able to address problem areas and maintain acceptable sickness absence levels within their own department. Target levels for [Name of organisation] are defined as [...].

  • All managers should make sure that staff are seen whenever they return from a period of absence, to discuss their absence and sign the absence record form. It may be appropriate to use delegated responsibility for practical reasons (if the service is dispersed, for example).

  • Where frequent absences, continuous absence or inability to perform duties due to ill health are causing problems in the workplace, the manager will discuss this with the staff member, either at a return to work meeting or at another arranged meeting before any proposed action takes place.

  • It is important that all managers discuss ill-health issues with Human Resources (HR) so that consistent standards are applied. Professional advice should be sought from the Occupational Health Service (OHS) before determining a course of action. Managers should always discuss the referral to OHS with the staff member before the referral takes place.

  • In all cases the overriding criteria for deciding appropriate action is what is fair and reasonable given the individual circumstances of the case and taking into account age, length of service, frequency, length and pattern of absences, medical advice and service needs.

  • Managers should make the staff member aware of the medical advice and should make sure at all stages that staff have the opportunity to discuss their health and point of view.

4.2 Staff responsibilities

  • Staff must keep to our absence reporting procedures. This includes keeping their manager advised of progress and covering their absences by appropriate certificates submitted in time.

  • If referred by their manager, it is in staff's best interests to attend OHS. Staff also have the right to self-refer to OHS.

  • Staff are expected to see their manager on return from sick leave and complete an absence record form where appropriate.

4.3 HR responsibilities

  • Management of ill-health problems are a line management function. However, HR staff will provide assistance, advice and support to managers and staff at all stages of managing ill-health problems, including analysing absence records and investigating particular cases to ensure fairness and consistency throughout [Name of organisation].

  • The HR department will collect, analyse and publish, where appropriate, departmental and organisational absence statistics.

4.4 OHS responsibilities

  • The OHS provides confidential advice and counselling to all staff. Although not a replacement for the family doctor, any staff member can arrange an appointment if they feel their work is affecting their health or vice versa. Referrals can be made directly by the staff member to OHS (a self referral), and can also be made at the request of the manager via HR.

5 Education and training

To promote attendance positively, [Name of organisation] will raise awareness of this policy and its standards as part of departmental and organisational induction for new staff. We will also provide training for staff, managers and Trade Unions/Professional Organisations which will include, as a minimum, the following issues:

  • the benefits of good attendance at work;

  • roles and responsibilities of staff, managers, HR, OHS and Trade Unions/Professional Organisations;

  • the procedure for reporting absence;

  • trigger points for reviewing absence in [Name of Organisation];

  • return to work discussions;

  • referrals to OHS; and

  • recording and monitoring attendance levels.

6 Monitoring and reviewing

The activities which result from the introduction of this policy will be examined and the activities of each component part monitored. This review process will lead to a regular revision of the policy.

Regularly reviewing sickness absence rates, staff turnover, levels of redeployment and the number of terminated contracts and ill-health referrals will also contribute to the evaluation and audit of the policy.

Annex 1
Procedure for the Management of Health Problems

In some cases, the PIN Guidelines on Management of Employee Capability and Management of Employee Conduct should be referred to for guidance on the management of health problems. HR can advise on when this is appropriate.

Annex 2
Absence Reporting: Procedure for Staff

1 All staff are responsible for making every effort to communicate with their manager whilst on sick leave.

2 If you are unable to attend work or fall ill during a period of leave, you must tell your manager at the earliest opportunity before your starting time and no later than within one hour of your scheduled starting time.

3 It is your responsibility to make contact personally with your manager. Only in exceptional circumstances where you are unable to phone personally, a relative or friend may phone on your behalf, but the responsibility remains with you. Where the manager is not available, it is essential that contact is made with an alternative senior staff member who will be responsible for taking the information and passing it to the manager. Messages should not be left on voice mail, with the hospital switchboard or with other wards or departments.

4 Failure to make contact in time may lead to you being treated as absent, pay being stopped and may ultimately lead to action under the 'Management of Employee Conduct' policy.

5 It is important that you communicate all relevant details when making contact, including:

  • the reason for absence ("sick" or "unwell" is not an adequate description, although if the reason is too personal to discuss with your manager, you can ask to discuss the absence with OHS);

  • an indication of when you expect to be fit to return to work; and

  • details of any appointments with your GP.

Your information will be kept in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.

6 At this stage, your manager will tell you when you should get in touch again and when, if appropriate, a sick certificate must be submitted.

7 It is your responsibility to keep your manager informed of your progress and, in particular, should you be unable to return when you anticipated. If you are absent immediately before leave days or days off, you must tell your manager when you will be fit to come back to work.

8 If your sickness is more than seven calendar days, you must get a medical certificate from your doctor and send it to your manager immediately. Any subsequent certificates should be submitted as quickly as possible, ensuring all days in the absence period are covered. Failure to submit a medical certificate will result in pay being withheld.

9 If you fall ill at work or have to go home due to sickness or other reasons, you must discuss this with your manager before leaving unless you require urgent treatment, in which case you should tell your manager at the earliest opportunity.

Annex 3
Absence Monitoring Protocol

1 Managers are responsible for collecting accurate information on both individual staff members and for their departments.

2 The manager should record individual staff's absence on an absence record form as soon as the staff member tells them about their absence. This should occur even where a staff member has presented himself or herself for work and has had to go home.

3 Each staff member's absence (including annual, statutory, sick, maternity and other leave) should also be recorded on a staff record form to allow an illustration of the number, frequency and reasons for absence to make it easier to identify trends. Managers should monitor individual staff's absence regularly to allow the manager to identify, at an early stage, areas of concern. The earlier issues are identified and discussed with the staff member, the more effective the response and action will be for both staff member and manager.

4 Departmental absence is collated by the manager and submitted on a monthly basis in the form of a return to HR (unless a different system for doing so is already in place in the organisation).

5 The information collated is:

  • the number of available hours in the month;

  • number of hours lost through sickness by individual staff members; and

  • number of hours lost through other absence by individual staff members.

6 The 'available hours' figures should be based on the situation at the end of the month and should include temporary staff but not bank or casual staff. Vacant posts should not be included in the figures. The 'available hours' should be calculated using the following formula:

whole time equivalent x conditioned hours x 4.3

7 All sickness absence, certificated, uncertificated or self-certificated, long- or short-term, should be included in the sickness absence figures. Where a staff member has had to go home due to ill health, the part day should be included in the figures. Maternity leave should not be included in the figures for sickness absence.

8 Other absence figures should include: annual leave, public holidays, maternity leave, training/study leave, etc. and should be clearly identified on the return.

9 Absence rates are calculated using the following calculations:

Sickness Hours in Month x 100 = percentage figure

Available hours

10 This figure will provide a consistent, simple measure against which comparisons can be made.

11 HR will collect the absence information and present it to the organisation's Board regularly.

12 HR will produce the following documents on a monthly basis:

  • a table showing the basic figures collated for the organisation;

  • a bar chart using the basic figures collated for the organisation; and

  • a line graph for each department showing the month by month position.

13 It is the manager's responsibility to investigate the figures for their department with support from HR.

Carrying out the Return To Work Discussion

1 Preparation

Get together OHS reports and copies of correspondence with the staff member.


Get details of his or her length of service and previous record of absence.


Look at the pattern of absence. Is it regular or unusual?


If you need any more information or help, who can give you this?


Arrange a time and private place for the meeting, and tell the member of staff about it.


Prepare an introduction (see section 2).


Look at your checklist for structuring the meeting (see section 3).


2 Introduction

Explain the aims of the meeting.


Highlight the absence record and pattern (if any).


Agree the initial aim that his or her attendance must improve.


Ask him or her for suggestions on how s/he could improve attendance.


Agree an action plan, with timescales, for this improvement.


Outline next steps if performance does not improve.


Set a date for another review.


3 Structure

The following structure will help you to manage the interview sensitively and cover all the issues you need to look at. You should begin each item with an open-ended question to gain information and to open up the discussion.

Remember to use only those sections or questions which are relevant to the individual circumstances - this is simply a list of prompts. (For example, you may already know that the person may not have any domestic issues related to their absence, so do not use these questions.)


"You will be aware of our Promoting Attendance policy, and as your manager I need to meet with you to talk this through with you.
So, how are you? Are you feeling better? What was wrong?"


Health issues

"What do you feel about this report?"
"How do you feel about your health?"
"How do you feel about your work in relation to your health?"


Domestic issues

"How do you feel your domestic situation may affect your work, in the future?"
"What can we do to help?"


Work issues

"Is there anything worrying you about your work?"
"Is there anything we could look at to change?"



"So you feel the problem has been ..."
"You have also suggested ... could be a solution."
"If, together, we can find a way to achieve this do you agree we could sort this problem out?"


Next steps

Agree action


Agree attendance target


Set a date and venue for a further review


These techniques should help you to promote attendance in a structured and fair way, and create a healthy and supportive working atmosphere. Showing a genuine concern for your staff will make them all the more willing to talk to you openly, before their problems keep them off work.


The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Employee Absence: a survey ofmanagement policy and practice, Survey Report, CIPD, London, 2001

The Cabinet Office

Managing Attendance in the public sector:'Putting Best Practice into Work'

The Confederation of

Pulling Together: 2001 absence and

British Industry

labour turnover survey, The CBI / PPP Healthcare, London, 2001

The Health Education Authority

Reviewing attendance in the NHS: Causesof absence and discussion of managementstrategies

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