FAQs about Employment Law


How should employers handle periods of absence and sickness?

Firstly, employers should take into account the length of time the employee has been off work and the reasons behind it.

For short term absences, the employer should double-check what the relevant employment contract states, what policies and procedures they have in place and comply with them.  All absences must be properly documented and attendance records should be reviewed to find out what reasons may be behind the absences.  Naturally, the employer should discreetly consult with the employee in question and discover whether any health or personal issues are causing them to be absent.  If it is clear that there is little justification for the absences, the employer might want to consider properly using disciplinary procedures.

Longer term absences caused by ill-health may require the employer to consult their employee  in order to liaise with the employee’s GP and see whether they can get access.  The employer may also wish to have the employee undertake an Occupational Health assessment.

Is it legal to sack employees for short term absenteeism?

Yes it can be, although the employer must make sure procedures are carefully followed.  Rather than dismissing the employee straight away, which could attract a claim for unfair dismissal, the employee should issue a warning.  When considering whether to use disciplinary or dismissal procedures, the employer should take into account how long the employee has served the organisation for, their past performance and frequency of absences in the past.  Above all, before dismissal it needs to be asked whether the dismissal is fair and reasonable given the circumstances.  This can be a difficult judgement to make and when in doubt, legal advice should be sought.

How should employer’s handle absences caused by long term ill health?

The employer should consult with their employee to ascertain when they think they will be able to return to work and determine whether there are any other forms of suitable employment.  Employers should also take into account the view’s of the employee’s GP and and that of an occupational health consultant.

How can an employer ‘fairly’ dismiss an employee with long term health issues?

Above all, it is important to consult the employee at all stages and ask whether they think they will return to work, the severity of the symptoms and length of time it might take to get better.  Naturally, asking the employee’s GP about their diagnosis is also appropriate.  If possible, alternative  employment should also be offered and if it is refused, this will make any dismissal seem fair.

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