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How can I improve attendance and discourage sporadic absence?

Ask the expert blog-Paula

For 40 years, HR:4UK has been a trusted partner, offering expert advice on a wide range of HR issues, both big and small. Lately, we have received numerous inquiries about managing sporadic absences in the workplace.  

Many employers encounter issues with poor attendance and/or sporadic absences from time to time, the best way to encourage regular attendance is to promote communication. 

So, how can employers tackle this issue effectively?

To ensure effective management of employee attendance, it is essential that employees understand the correct reporting procedure and have the appropriate names and contact information of their line managers. Line managers must log absences diligently and conduct return to work discussions on the first day back. Regular reviews of attendance should be conducted to highlight any concerns. If attendance falls below acceptable levels, appropriate action must be taken to address the issue.

What steps should be taken to ensure employees are aware of the correct sickness absence reporting procedure and have access to necessary information regarding their line managers?

Ensure you have a clear policy so employees are aware of the procedure, for HR:4UK clients a Sickness Policy is included in your employment handbook. 

During induction ensure employees activate their login to the employment handbook and ask that they take time to read and understand all policies. 

Ensure employees are provided with the name and contact details for their line manager.

How should line managers handle the logging of absences?

Line managers should keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to their teams’ attendance; sickness and other absences can be logged in the absence calendar on the eConnect portal (included with our Upper level of service, and available for Intermediate and Basic levels).  Logging absences will highlight patterns of absence or an upturn in absences, giving a foundation for discussion with the employee.

What about return-to-work discussions? How important are they?

These discussions are absolutely key, Line Managers should be encouraged to meet with employees on their first day back to work, even for odd day absences.  HR:4UK have a return to work discussion template available to support discussions. 

This is an opportunity to ensure the employee is well enough to be back at work, understand the reason for absence (employees are likely to think twice about taking a day off unnecessarily if they know they will need to discuss reasons for absence on their return). 

It is also an opportunity to, understand if the employee has an underlying health issue, if they are taking medication which may have side-effects, if they are likely to need further time off to attend appointments, ascertain if reasonable adjustments may be appropriate.  And importantly to understand if the absence is in any way linked to their job or working environment. 

Finally this is opportunity to check they have followed the correct reporting procedure – if not why not; clarify what is required of them going forward.

How frequently should attendance be reviewed?

At regular intervals attendance should be reviewed by Line Managers and/or HR to ascertain if there appears to be a pattern of absence, this could indicate an underlying health concern or that the employee is dissatisfied at work and may be taking time off to avoid certain tasks or people. 

If absence seems to be higher than the rest of the team or a pattern becomes obvious, this should be discussed with the employee.

And if an employee’s attendance doesn’t improve, what actions should be taken?

Care and consistency is absolutely key here.  Line Managers should be open minded when considering what action, if any, is appropriate where absence levels are higher than expected.  Gather details of absences and ask to speak to the employee.  Share details explaining their absence levels are unacceptable and improvement is required.  How can the Company support the employee to attend work regularly and as required by their contract?  Ask open questions to understand the facts.  The outcome of this may be:

  • No further action
  • Letter of concern
  • Formal procedure invoked and possible warning issued
  • Where a health issue is declared, assessment by occupational health to seek guidance on reasonable adjustments
  • Employee raises concerns or grievances which must be investigated and addressed
  • Employee is dissatisfied in their position, consider how this can be addressed – opportunity for training (consider training courses through HR:4UK’s training platform) and/or advancement?  Redeployment?

In conclusion, what would be your final advice to employers facing attendance issues?

While many employers may encounter issues with absence, speaking with and listening to employees must be encouraged. 

Take appropriate action and always be consistent to avoid claims of unfair and potentially discriminatory treatment. 

Ensuring employees are supported with their personal development will avoid absences due to dissatisfaction and help with staff retention. 


In many situations, especially with the increasing focus on employee well-being, effective management of attendance has become very important for UK businesses.

Ensuring employees understand the correct reporting procedures, maintaining regular attendance reviews, and taking appropriate actions when necessary can significantly enhance productivity and morale.

However, if you are unsure about implementing these measures and the potential impacts, our expert team is ready to answer any questions you may have on this subject, whether it pertains to the entire business or individual employees.

HR:4UK are on the end of the phone to support you. If you’d like to discuss in more detail, please give us a call on 01455 444222 or contact us

Paula Hart

Paula is our longest serving employee, with over 20 years’ service, and has more than earned her exceptional reputation for supporting our clients in all employment matters.

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