Introduction to this document

Notice of absence management meeting

It’s potentially fair to dismiss an employee because of an unsatisfactory attendance record caused by persistent but genuine short-term sickness absences, provided a proper procedure is followed which is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances and you act reasonably in treating the employee’s poor attendance as a sufficient reason to dismiss them. Use our letter to kick start the formal process.

Potentially fair dismissal reason

Whether the potentially fair reason for dismissal in such cases is capability or some other substantial reason (SOSR) can depend on what’s at the forefront of your mind when dismissing the employee. If it was their health, the reason for dismissal will be capability. However, where the recurring absences themselves are the reason for dismissal, and you’ve triggered our Attendance Procedure, the better potentially fair dismissal reason is likely to be SOSR.

A fair procedure

As part of your investigation, conduct a fair review of the employee’s recent pattern of absences and the reasons given for absence. The next stage is then to write to the employee formally setting up a meeting to discuss their unsatisfactory sickness absence record. Use our Notice of Absence Management Meeting to arrange this meeting. Our letter provides details of the dates and duration of the employee’s absences, sets out your required attendance levels which they’re failing to achieve and confirms the purpose of the meeting and what the outcome of it might be.

Medical evidence

If the employee doesn’t have an underlying health condition, it’s not necessary to obtain a medical report. This is because there’s no specific medical issue to investigate. Do be careful though as a series of minor illnesses can seem unconnected but may relate to an underlying medical issue, so during your investigation make enquiries to satisfy yourself on this point. If the employee does have an underlying health condition, first try to obtain a medical report either from their own GP or consultant or from an independent doctor that you’ve appointed. Once you’ve received the report, meet with the employee to discuss it. You can then still follow your attendance procedure if it’s appropriate to do so in the light of the medical evidence. 

The meeting

At the meeting, discuss the impact that persistent sickness absence has on the business and on other staff and the required attendance levels expected, set out how the employee is falling short of expectations (exploring the frequency and duration of their absences and the reasons given) and allow them an opportunity to explain why their sickness absence record is so poor and to put forward any mitigating factors. You should also consider what measures you could implement to help the employee improve their health or attendance levels, such as changes to their job or working conditions. After the meeting, consider all the facts and take a balanced decision on whether the employee has an attendance problem that needs addressing.