Everything about sickness absence

Absence is a direct cost to any business - either in terms of 'sick pay', loss of productivity, or both. It may not be possible to achieve ‘0’ absence. People will be unwell, and it is important to support those who are genuinely unable to attend to work, but you need to monitor absence and remain in control. 

Absence is a cost to the business and needs to be managed. The first step in reducing absence is to monitor it and to have a clear absence policy in place. 

Some organisations include trigger points in their absence policy, where a procedure or conversations are automatically started when absence reaches a certain level. Some organisations use measurements like the Bradford Factor to distinguish between short term frequent absence and long-term absence.  

With clear monitoring you can manage any problem areas and stay in control.  You will be able to address problems at an earlier stage and this can reduce frustration and the level of absence.

Have a clear policy on how you will manage any long-term or short-term absences. Be clear about how and when people need to report any absence and what is acceptable and not acceptable. Be clear about what payments will be made if someone is absent.

Clearly communicate your rules around absence.  This will also include absence that may be related to a bereavement (compassionate leave), or jury service leave or other non-sickness related absences. 

Managing absence may also necessitate the need to take medical advice (e.g. from Occupational Health) to help you make informed decisions.  

Ultimately, if an individual is not capable of performing their job role and fulfilling their contract of employment, due to sickness absence or an underlying medical condition, you can take appropriate action. 

Frequently asked questions

Yes. BUT, depending on the reasons for absence and their length of service, there will be important procedures to follow before you can fairly dismiss someone. Read the guidance on medical capability for more guidance.

If someone does not attend work and does not follow your absence notification procedures, this will generally be considered as unauthorised absence. This is a conduct issue as they have failed to notify you or attend work. Read the guidance on unauthorised absence for more details and guidance.

If you have a company sick pay scheme you will also need to pay them in line with this, this will normally be detailed in the contract of employment and the rules outlined in the sick pay policy.

However, since January 2023 the Sick Leave Act allows for the following statutory payments.

  • Paid sick leave for up to 3 sick days per year. This is planned to increase to 5 days in 2024, 7 days in 2025 and 10 days in 2026.
  • A rate of payment for statutory sick leave of 70% of normal wages to be paid by employers (up to a maximum €110 per day).
  • A right for workers to take a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission where they are not provided with a company sick pay scheme.

To be entitled to paid sick leave under the new scheme, employees must be working with their employer for a continuous 13 weeks and also need to be certified by a GP as unfit to work.

Employers should update their Company sick pay policy to advise employees that the total number of days include statutory sick pay. Please note that you will need to be clear with regard to the amount payable for each day. 


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