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When Staff Call in Sick

As a manager you need to be supportive while trying to ensure the staff member can return to work as quickly as is appropriate.

As a manager you also need to gather the right information so that you have accurate records to help tackle any sickness absence problems in your team.

When staff call in sick, always ask the following questions:

  • What is their reason for absence?
  • How long do you think their likely to be absent for?
  • Is there any work they've been doing that needs to be picked up while they are off?

Depending on the reason they give, you may also want to find out:

Listening is key: put yourself in their shoes and think about how you might feel and what you would want your manager to say and do.

Make sure you record the absence and reason on the weekly absence return. excel icon Weekly Absence Return [60kb]

Communicating reporting procedures

All employees must comply with the standard notification and certification requirements.  In exceptional circumstances, if an employee is unable to make contact personally they should arrange for someone else to do so on their behalf.  Whilst sending a text or leaving a voicemail might be fine for initial notification the employee must follow this up with a call later to the line manager to discuss absence.

Notification arrangements must specify to a named contact within each service unit to who employees notify sickness absence.  As a Manager you should ensure periodically that staff are advised of who that person is and how they can make contact.  This helps staff understand the reporting procedures and prevents any misunderstandings.  Notification procedures can be located on notice boards for quick reference or referred to periodically during team briefings.

The standard requirements for notifying sickness absence are:

  • At the earliest possible time on the first day of absence with due regard to local operational requirements (in the case of teaching staff notification must be made prior to the start of the school day)
  • On the 4th day of absence
  • On the 7th day of absence
  • Thereafter, the employee must maintain regular contact as agreed with yourselves

The standard notification requirements set out above, apply across all council services.  However employees will be expected to maintain contact with their line manager out with those timescales, where there is a need to pass on essential information regarding the need to cancel and rearrange meetings and other prior work commitments etc. 

As line manager it is your responsibility to maintain records of sickness absences, including conversations with staff while they are off sick and any meetings you have following those absences.

Listen and support

Listening at this stage is key. This seems obvious but when you are busy the importance of listening can sometimes be forgotten. If this was you ringing in sick, how would you feel and what would you want your manager to say?

It may be that all you need to do is to listen, wish them well and agree either when they will be back or when you will next be in touch. Listening carefully, reserving judgement and allowing staff the time to discuss things further if needed will ensure they feel fully supported.

Keep in contact

If your employee is going to be off for more than a day you will need to discuss how often you will keep in touch and who will contact who.

Consider reasonable adjustments

Usually staff will be able to return to their role and work environment. However, you may need to ask if any adjustments could be made to allow them to return to work and/or prevent further absences. The sooner you have this conversation, the more time you will have to arrange for the support, equipment or adjustments needed. Making adjustments could also mean your staff member could return to work sooner. pdf icon Management Guidance - Reasonable Adjustments [254kb]

If an employee fails to make contact

Should an employee fail to make contact, you should attempt to make contact with the individual ASAP (or next of kin if details available) to establish reasons for absence.  If no response is received and there is no further contact received by day two then a letter asking for them to make contact ASAP should be sent to their home address and they will normally be classed as on unauthorised unpaid leave.  Contact HR to discuss and obtain standard letter.  Unauthorised unpaid leave may be subject to disciplinary action dependant on circumstances.

Suspension of Sick Pay

Sick Pay will be suspended if an employee abuses the sickness allowance scheme.  Abuse of the sickness scheme will be dealt with under the terms of the council's disciplinary procedures.

Sickness during Annual Leave

An employee who falls sick during the course of annual leave will be regarded as being on sick leave subject to producing a medical certificate covering the days of illness and complying with the normal reporting procedures i.e. calling in sick, etc.  This is not applicable for teaching staff, please refer to the relevant SNCT conditions of Service.