How to effectively manage sporadic sick leave absences

One of the key queries that we receive from members is how  should they manage sporadic sick leave that occurs on a frequent basis?


Sick leave policy

A robust sick leave policy and absence management process can be an effective means of managing this issue and ensuring a smooth continuity of business services. Our first recommendation is to develop a sick leave policy which should consider the following:

  • How best should your employees notify the business when they are ill? Our recommendation is that they must ring in person and speak to a line manager.
  • Who should they notify in the case of their manager being out? We would recommend that a suitable alternative be listed in the sick leave policy.
  • What time should they notify you by? E.g. two hours before their shift starts or when the business opens.
  • When is a medical certificate required? Should it be two or three days?
  • How will you facilitate medical appointments? Do employees use their leave or make early / later appointments?
  • Will you give paid sick leave? If yes, you can download the SFA sample sick leave policy here

As each business has its own unique needs it is best to identify what other elements you should include within your sick leave policy.


Measuring and recording absence

The next element is measuring and recording the absenteeism to determine what is an unacceptable level of sporadic sick leave. This will also help you if you need to invoke a disciplinary process. Elements to consider are as follows:

  • What is the average number of days lost per employee in the business as a whole?
  • What is the frequency rate of absence? E.g. once a month or once a quarter
  • The average duration of absence? E.g. one day here and there
  • Is there a pattern? E.g. sickness often occurs on a Monday or Friday or a shift they try to avoid.

Managing sporadic sick leave

The most important part of managing sick leave effectively is that there is regular communication with the employee both during the absence and when they return to work. Dealing with absence is a multifaceted and sensitive process so it is essential that you listen carefully and objectively to the employee when they return to work as there could be an underlying issue that could include a disability. If you have any concerns that an employee has a disability and you want further advice on accommodating this please contact Helen Quinn at SFA to get further advice.


In terms of sporadic sick leave absence, we recommend that you consider the following when managing it:

  • Has the employee taken an excessive amount of sick leave? Is there a pattern?
  • Has the employee properly followed the sick leave policy?
  • Review attendance performance from your records and discuss areas of dissatisfaction and how they should improve their attendance
  • Give room for improvement and assess if they are improving their attendance
  • If the issue continues, take corrective action using the company disciplinary process

The most important advice we would offer our members is to remain open and caring to genuine cases of sick leave but do keep records of absence, maintain regular contact with the employee and take corrective action if you have determined there is a problem. If the problem is ignored or left to fester it not only impacts the running of the business but it can also affect the morale of other employees who may be required to cover the work of the absent employee.


Why not download our SFA Guideline on managing absenteeism?


If you would like more information on managing absence or to discuss your requirements further, please contact Helen at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at or visit our HR and Employment Law advice section on

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