Dealing with Sickness Absence

This section looks at key aspects of how to handle dealing with sickness absence in the workplace.

In this section

Managing absence is important, it helps your co-operative reduce staff turnover and creates a happy and motivated workforce. 

  • How to develop a sickness absence policy
  • Disability and absence
  • Reporting absence
  • Sick pay
  • Occupational health
  • Dismissing an employee due to their sickness absence

Watch our short video giving an overview of dealing with sickness absence, and read on for more information:

Sickness Absence Policy

To help your staff understand how your co-operative manages absence, it’s useful to have a policy in place. You can find out what to include at

Disability and Absence

Employees who are disabled are protected from discrimination and absence should be managed with care. To qualify for protection, employees must have a condition which substantially affects, or is likely to affect, their normal daily activities for at least 12 months. Some conditions such as HIV, MS or cancer are protected from the point of diagnosis.

Employers are legally required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. A reasonable adjustment can include changes to the job or workplace such as providing additional support, equipment or changing aspects of the role.

Reporting Absence

Staff should be told how they should report sickness absence. Many organisations expect employees to call within an hour of their start time. Where absence is likely to continue, agree how, and when, you will be updated.

After 7 days, your employee must visit their GP to get a Statement of Fitness for Work certifying their absence. The note may state that the individual is unfit for work or could return with adjustments. Your co-operative should consider whether these adjustments can be accommodated (see disability above).

Sick Pay

Employees are eligible to be paid £88.45* per week Statutory Sick Pay if they are too unwell to work. Employees must have been off work for at least 4 days (including non working days). Statutory Sick Pay is paid for 28 weeks.

Occupational Health

Where your co-operative is managing absence, it is useful to get a report from an occupational health provider. The report will provide detailed information about the employee’s health, whether the illness could amount to a disability, likely return to work and suitable adjustments. Your co-operative can refer individuals to the government’s free occupational health service where absence is likely to last 4 weeks

Dismissing an employee due to their sickness absence

It is potentially fair to dismiss an employee where their absence levels have become unsustainable. The process will depend on whether there have been repeated instances of short-term absence or a single period of long term absence.

When dealing with unacceptable levels of short term absence, it is important to tell the employee that their absence levels are unsatisfactory and give them time to make an improvement. Your co-operative should issue formal written warnings. Always check whether the absences are related to an underlying health condition or disability, if applicable you should follow the approach for dealing with long term absence.

In cases of long term absence, your co-operative will need to engage in regular discussions with the employee throughout their absence, investigate the cause and the likelihood of return. The appropriate length of time to wait will depend on a number of factors including the impact on the workplace, whether sick pay is continuing and likelihood of return. It is essential to get the advice of occupational health.

In both instances, your co-operative should follow a fair procedure and hold formal meetings with the employee (allowing the employee the right to be accompanied). You should also allow the employee to appeal your decision. You should follow the process set out in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (

Managing absence can be complex, your co-operative can get more information at

* The rate changes annually, check at for the current rates.

In this section

Recruitmant and resourcing • Family friendly rights • Grievances and ending employment • Performance management

Co-operatives UK HR Package: Delivering HR expertise for your co‑operative

Because people are at the heart of a successful co-operative business, Co-operatives UK offers a specialist HR service designed specifically for co-operatives. To find out more about the Co-operatives UK HR Package, please visit

HR training

Co-operatives UK offers one-day training, including an essential HR course – find out more.

Updated: 26/03/2019