Statistics show that the total annual cost to UK businesses of absence from work is approximately £567 per employee. The vast majority of employers expect and accept a certain amount of absenteeism before deciding to take any action as a consequence.
Before an employer decides if and what action could be taken, the employee's absence record should be reviewed, taking their personal details into account and comparing them to other employees across the business.
If on reviewing the data, the level of absence has dramatically increased or the reasons for the absence are unconnected or the employer can see no underlying reason connected to the employee's employment for the periods of absence, or the absence record as a whole of the employee is unsatisfactory, an employer is entitled to consider the implementation of the Company Disciplinary Procedure.
If however, the absences are connected, employers are advised to obtain consent from the employee to contact their doctor and obtain a medical report, at the same time outlining the employee's rights under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. Once permission has been granted, the employer would then need to write to the General Practitioner requesting a prognosis. This will enable an employer to gain information relating to any potential disability and by doing so to minimise the risk of a successful claim under the Equality Act.
On receiving a report from the Medical Professional, you should discuss the contents with an employment law advisor before deciding on what action to take. On all occasions, regardless of an employee's length of service (and because of the risk of claims under the Equality Act) the employer should treat each individual circumstance with caution. If the underlying reason for absence is connected to the employee's work, the employer should of course make every attempt to resolve the issue with the same considerations in mind.