While most of us would be understanding if an employee is late or absent from work every now and then, staff that are regularly absent and without good reason can cause issues for both their fellow team members and the business as a whole.
To keep timekeeping in your workforce’s mind as a priority, it’s worth putting a absence management policy together that outlines your expectations and potential consequences.
You can use our absence management policy template as a good starting point. It complies with the UK working time regulations which employee hours of work and rest breaks amongst other things. You can also find out more about working time rules in our guide to working time.
What to put into the policy
• The employees’ typical start and finish times
• The length of break times allowed in an average day
• How timekeeping and absences will be monitored
• How, when, and if employees are required to make up lost time
• The procedure you’ll take should lateness or absence occur frequently
• What employees should do if they know they are going to be late or absent
How to deal with unauthorised lateness and absence
• On the first occasion, this likely won’t have caused significant disruption, so consider simply giving the employee an informal warning, remind them of the hours of work and why they matter. You can also suggest that they reread your policy on the matter
• If the employee is frequently late or absent without a seemingly good reason, hold a meeting where you can discuss the issue and figure out what the reason behind the behavior is. It could be that they have understandable circumstances that you can help them to work around
• In line with your procedure, explain what is expected and inform them of the consequences of them not improving. Although this isn’t a formal warning, it’s sensible to follow up in writing so that the employee can refer to it when they need to, and it could also provide you with proof if you need to escalate further
• If the employee doesn’t improve, follow your misconduct and disciplinary procedures (see our guide to misconduct (covering poor performance and lateness) and guide to disciplinary policy and procedure for more information.)
What to do if an employee doesn’t turn up to work for a long period of time
• Try to get in contact with the employee by whatever reasonably means you can. Phone, email, letter, and contact any contact person that they have given you on their HR profile too
• If you can't get hold of them after a reasonable amount of time and they have been employed with you for fewer than 2 years, you should be able to dismiss them without risk of being accused of unfair dismissal
• If the employee has been with you for more than 2 years and you dismiss them at this point, there’s a chance they could make an unfair dismissal case against you if they were to return. It’s scenarios like this that make policies particularly important, as it spells out what you can do next and encapsulates your contractual rights
• If after exhausting all ways of contacting the employee, you remain unable to communicate with the employee, you may decide to terminate their employment. If you do, you should send details of your decision in writing by recorded delivery to the employee’s address. This way, you’ll have proof that it received by the employee (or not – if there is nobody there) and you can use the receipt as proof of your reasonable attempts if you are ever challenged as to the reasonableness of your dismissal decision
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