Managing Absence

Everybody is absent from time to time, is ill or has personal emergencies.  Expected absences are part of normal day to day and most organisations can cope with these, even if at times they are inconvenient.

But what do you do when the absence starts to become a problem?

There is always something that can be done, however, some key questions need to be answered before you do anything.

These questions include:

  • What is the reason for the absence?
  • How long have they been off?
  • How much longer are they likely to be off?
  • How frequent have the absences been?
  • What does your policy say about this type of absence?
  • What are the legal requirements?
  • What have you done in the past?

Key considerations

Have a conversation As their employer you need to understand the situation in so far   as it affects their ability to do their role.  It can sometimes be difficult to do this without a face to face meeting, but this should always be the goal.

It is important to show you are a caring employer, but also that you take these issues seriously   and have an expectation that your employees will keep you up to date with   their current situation and will not take advantage of your caring nature

Policies, contract   and handbook These provide a reference point for your policies on absence, dependants, sickness, holidays and other types of absence, giving a framework within which you can operate
Frequency and   duration Make sure you have all your facts and figures to hand.  Follow your organisations’s procedures around frequency and duration of absence, particularly relevant to sickness and dependants leave.
Ensure your existing   policies and procedures are followed Your contract and handbook are likely to include the procedure to be followed when absent or off sick, specifically whether or not they need to self certify, and at what point a fit note is required.

These together with   the frequency and duration information will provide a starting point for the conversation when absence becomes a problem.

Appropriate independent   advice Sickness can be difficult to tackle without a good working   knowledge of both the medical condition and the working environment.

Getting input from an occupational health professional can be very helpful to assess the medical implications for the environment in which the employee is working.

Pay This depends upon current legislation and your policy and   practice.  There are some absences for which you are required to pay, eg SSP, maternity, otherwise unless your   policy provides an entitlement to paid time off you need to apply  management discretion.

Some firms allow time off but unpaid, others are more flexible and will pay the employee but expect hours to be made up.

Return to work   interview These are proven to have a marked impact on absence of all   kinds.  A conversation with a line manager, of which a note is kept, on return to work provides evidence:

  • You have noticed the absence
  • You care whether your staff turn up for work
  • Upon which you can make decisions on action to take.

If you would like to discuss the points raised in this post, or would like more information contact us on 07977 932551 or email

Job Descriptions

I have never been a huge fan of job descriptions.  They are so often used as a  big stick, either by the employer if duties are not being fulfilled, or by the employee working to rule – ‘if it is not in my job description, I am not doing it’.

Job descriptions, as a result, tend to end up too long, too short or are only ever used by human resources.

So why do we need job descriptions?

There are several reasons why job descriptions are important:

 Regulatory Frequently job descriptions are a requirement by regulatory bodies,   such as the SRA, FSA, to ensure firms document the requirements of the role.
Contractual Although the employment contract only needs to have a job title and main duties, it is good practice to flesh these out using a job description, thereby ensuring that the role is fully scoped before recruiting.
Recruitment Without a clear understanding of the role including duties,   accountabilities, responsibilities, skills, competencies and qualifications needed to carry it out, how can you recruit effectively and fairly?
Diversity and Inclusion When you have a clear job description, measuring competencies,   skills and qualifications in line with the requirements of the job makes it easier for you to demonstrate that you have acted fairly, in an unbiased manner.
Performance Management Whether you are encouraging positive or discouraging negative activities and behaviour, it is difficult to do so without a job description detailing expectations of accountabilities,   responsibilities and activities of the role.
Organisation design Job descriptions set out responsibilities, accountabilities of each role.  In order to achieve a sound organisation design all key activities within the organisation should detail:-            who is responsible for delivering that activity, and

–            who is accountable for ensuring it is completed.

This will enable you to identify gaps, overlaps and duplication and rectify them.

What does a good job description look like?

A good job description outlines

Job Title Describing the job as   closely as possible
Line Manager Who the role reports to – The line manager
Job Purpose The purpose of the role and its key accountabilities
Main duties List of key activities and responsibilities
Person specification Definition of what the ideal candidate should have in terms of qualifications, experience and competence.

Often the best job descriptions are short and to the point with

–   a couple of sentences outlining the purpose of the role

–   a bullet point list of the duties and responsibilities ending with a catch all clause such as ‘any additional duties required by the business’, and

–   a list of essential and desired experience, competencies and qualifications

Ideally the document is about 2 pages of A4, and is meaningful to both the manager and the employee.  A good job description will also help you in writing any recruitment advert as it will include all the key elements that you for recruitment.


  • Writing a job description around a particular individual or a short term need
  • Making the job description too long and detailed
  • Including detail in the person specification that could be discriminatory
  • Being woolly about the responsibilities and accountabilities