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6 February 2017 | Comment | Article by Louise Price

National Sickie Day – “I can’t come to work; it’s my dog’s birthday”

As we draw to the end of the first Monday in February, did you notice an increase in staff absences?

Well, according to recent research around 350,000 people were expected to call in sick today, costing the economy around £45 million pounds. Whilst people call in sick for genuine reasons, there is little doubt that not all absences are supported by an authentic explanation. Some of the worst reported excuses include, throwing a birthday party for a dog and not having a clean pair of trousers for work!

So what can an employer do to address unauthorised absences?

This type of absence can cause significant losses to your business over time, such as low morale and delayed production. Employers should ensure that they have effective systems in place to measure their employees’ absences. Keeping an attendance record for each employee will allow you to monitor absence levels and identify any trends or regular occurrences of absence.

Employers are entitled to challenge a reason for an unauthorised absence if it appears implausible. You are also well within your rights to request evidence, if appropriate, and most issues can be dealt with informally in the first instance. If an employee is absent from work, claiming to be sick when they are not, they will be guilty of misconduct and could be subject to disciplinary measures and even dismissal.

However, you should ensure that you have an absence policy in place to adequately deal with any and all instances of absence. A well thought out absence policy can also assist employees in understanding what standards are expected from them and can include information such as:

  • Requirements for reporting absence;
  • Communication during the sickness period;
  • Payment during sick-leave;
  • Provision of medical certificates;
  • Long term/short term sickness;
  • Return to work procedures; and
  • Disciplinary and capability procedures.

Employers should ensure consistent and transparent application of an absence policy. It would also be appropriate to ensure that you have suitable disciplinary and capability policies in place.

For further advice, please contact the Hugh James Employment Team.

Author bio

Louise Price


A highly specialised lawyer, Louise is a Partner and Head of Employment and HR services. Her expertise includes corporate support work, TUPE, pensions and employee benefits advice. She regularly advises private, public and third sector clients regarding large scale TUPE transfers of staff including drafting indemnities and warranties, advising on potential employment and pension liabilities, information and consultation obligations, and providing best value guidance.

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