Absence management

Last updated 30 September, 2019

Principle and statement of intent

Effective management of absence is crucial to the effective and efficient operation of Bumbles Day Care. High levels of sickness within Bumbles may have a detrimental effect on the quality of service provided and place an added burden on employees remaining at work.

Best attendance results are likely to be achieved where employees and management are committed to promoting the well being of all employees and occupational health, including health surveillance. Employees are entitled to expect fair treatment; Bumbles is equally entitled to take appropriate action in respect of unacceptable levels of absence and to be firm in dealing with abuse of the system.

Absense reporting / Payment entitlement

If you are unable to attend work for any reason whatsoever you must contact our Management team the evening before i.e: by 5.30pm or at the very latest by 8.15 am on the first day of absence, stating why you are absent and when you expect to return. Text messages are not an acceptable form of notification. You are not entitled to use Annual Leave or time off in lieu to pay for sickness absence.

Where your absence is due to sickness, in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be paid for up to a maximum of 28 weeks to those who are incapable for work and who satisfy the conditions for payment.

To receive entitlement an employee must report their inability to attend work in accordance with the following procedures:

  • On the first day of sickness absence – employees must notify the manager as soon as practicable, but in any event, by no later than 15 minutes before their starting time, and advise reasons for and estimated length of absence.
  • If the employee is unable to report sickness absence then some other person acting on the employee’s behalf should notify the manager as soon as possible. It is appreciated that some special circumstances may arise where it is not possible to meet this deadline.
  • Text messages are not an acceptable form of notification.
  • On return to work after any period of absence – obtain and complete a Return to Work form available from the staff room before 10.15am, staff working in afternoon only can return this by 2.15pm.
  • On return to work after four, five, six or seven days’ sickness absence – obtain and complete a self-certification form. This form is obtainable from the office
  • If sickness absence continues – you must keep Bumbles informed on a daily basis to facilitate the arrangement of appropriate cover ie: before 4.30pm
  • If sickness absence continues for eight days or more – the employee must obtain a sick note from their doctor. This must be completed in conjunction with the self-certification form and both must be submitted to the Manager. Submit further sick note from your doctor to cover any continued absence.

Statutory sick pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be paid when you are absent from work due to sickness, provided that you have complied with the requirements and conditions attached to its payment. SSP cannot be paid for the first 3 days of sickness. Therefore, payment usually starts on the 4th day of absence, and continues for as long as you are absent, up to a maximum of 28 weeks in any one period of sickness. SSP is paid in exactly the same way as normal earnings.SSP is not payable in certain circumstances, the principal ones being:

  • If your average weekly earnings are less than the figure set by the Government for the payment of National Insurance Contributions
  • For absence of less than 4 days
  • If you have failed to follow the sickness Notification Procedure
  • If your employment has terminated
  • Where Statutory Maternity Pay is being paid to you
  • For days on which you do not normally work (e.g. if you work Monday to Friday and not at weekends, SSP will normally apply to those 5 days only)
  • If your employment is for a specified period of 3 calendar months or less.

The rules on SSP are very complex and you should not hesitate to raise any query you may have with Bumbles.


If you have been absent due to sickness and are found not to have been genuinely ill, you will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include dismissal. If you are in receipt of sick pay, including Statutory Sick Pay you are not allowed to undertake any form of paid alternative employment, self-employment or voluntary work. Any breach of this rule will be regarded as gross misconduct, which will be subject to disciplinary action and could result in dismissal.

Sickness during annual leave

If you fall sick during a period of annual leave and submit the appropriate self-certificate or sick note from your doctor to the Manager by the earliest practicable date, the period of sickness absence will be treated as sick leave and not as annual leave.

Sickness during public holidays

There is no entitlement to claim back days if you fall sick on a public holiday.

Maintaining contact with sick employees

As part of good management practice it is essential that contact be maintained with absent employees whether on short or long term sickness absence. Maintaining contact with employees away from their place of work must be handled sensitively and with due consideration for the nature of the employee’s illness. A mutual understanding of the reason for absence should be identified and, where possible, assistance offered to the individual, including referral to occupational health if appropriate or applicable.

Measures to deal with frequent and persistent sickness

Bumbles uses the Bradford Factor system to monitor absence. The system works as follows:
The formula S x S x D is used to calculate the absence points for an employee. Where S equals the number of spells of absence in the last 52 weeks. D equals the number of shifts of absence in the last 52 weeks. This is used to identify trigger points to prompt further action; it is not used in isolation but as a tool to facilitate absence management. The trigger points used are as follows: Counselling for first incident of absence.

  • 50 – 124 points verbal warning
  • 125 – 399 points first written warning
  • 400 – 649 points final written warning
  • 650 and over termination of contract

The main purposes of the return to work interview are:

  • To welcome the employee back to work and provide an update about any developments which have occurred during their absence
  • To check that employees are fully recovered and capable of performing their duties
  • To see whether Bumbles can provide any additional support
  • To review the employee’s absence record and Bradford Factor score and discuss any patterns of absence which are apparent and which cause concern.

The return to work interview should be conducted sensitively and in private by a member of the management team. The Manager will, taking account of all relevant circumstances, discuss with the employee the acceptable level of attendance at work, the employee’s level of sickness absence and the reasons for the absence. The manager should indicate clearly to the employee the improvement in attendance required and set targets accordingly to assist the employee in making a satisfactory improvement with a review date.

At each stage in the procedures the employee shall be reminded that he/she may choose to be accompanied by a Trade Union representative or colleague. In the circumstances where there is an identifiable health problem, or a decision is made for the employee to be referred to the occupational health service, refer to the section entitled Medical Examinations. Following the review of the absence record at the end of the monitoring period, if the employee is unable to achieve and maintain the agreed acceptable level of attendance at work the matter may be dealt with in accordance with Bumbles disciplinary procedure.

Measures to deal with prolonged / long-term sickness absense

Long-term sickness absence will normally be regarded as a continuous absence from work for at least four weeks or over. Whenever a case of long-term absence is identified, the manager must review the circumstances of the case. It is the responsibility of the manager to ensure communication is maintained with the employee and they are contacted within four weeks of their absence. Where it is considered that the absence is likely to continue for an uncertain period of time, the manager must arrange a meeting with the employee concerned within the four-week stage.

The purpose of the meeting is to consider:

  • The employee’s current state of health;
  • The likely duration of the sickness absence;
  • The employee’s expectations concerning his/her future fitness to return to work;
  • Any potential impediments to an early return to work.

A record should be made of the meeting and confirmed in writing to the employee by the manager. A copy will be retained on the employee’s personal file.

Medical examinations

An employee may be required, as and when the manager considers it necessary or advisable, to agree to a referral to the occupational health service. In such circumstances the employee must be advised of his/her rights under the Access to Personal Files and Medical Records (Northern Ireland) Order 1991. The examination will allow management to determine, in the best interests of the employee and having regard to the operational requirements of the service, what further course of action, if any, is considered necessary in the circumstances. Where the examination reveals an inherent medical problem, the issue should be dealt with as a capability issue as outlined in the section entitled Capability on Grounds of Ill-health. Where no underlying health problem is identified and the employee’s level of attendance gives cause for concern the matter should be treated as an attendance issue and dealt with in accordance with sections entitled Conduct and Unauthorised Absence.

Capability on grounds of ill health

Where the occupational health report confirms an underlying illness or medical complaint, an employee is entitled to sympathetic consideration by Bumbles. In many cases an employee who suffers such ill health will receive the medical treatment, remedial surgery, etc. that will result in an acceptable rate of recovery being achieved. Where the prognosis is such that frequent or prolonged absence will be a continuing feature, then the case would require to be treated in terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. An employee will satisfy the definition of disabled under the act if he or she has a “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day to day activities”. At this point the matter should be fully discussed with the individual in the presence of his/her representative where appropriate and the various options identified. In cases where ill-health, retirement or dismissal on the grounds of capability are being considered and the occupational health professional judgement is contradictory to that of the employee’s own GP then, as part of good management practice, it is expected that an independent medical examination should be carried out and a decision taken on the basis of that report.


Where the occupational health report confirms no underlying health disorder, or where the individual’s level of attendance at work gives serious cause for concern, the issue may be one of conduct rather than capability and should be dealt with in accordance with the Bumbles Disciplinary Procedure.

Unauthorised absenses

Unauthorised absences will be investigated and may be treated as misconduct and consequently dealt with in accordance with the disciplinary procedures.