Managing Sickness Absence Policy

Statement of Principles
Policy & Legal requirements
Training & Awareness
Monitoring & Measuring absence
Welsh Language - Employee Rights
Impact Assessments

Statement of Principles

1.1 It is the University’s policy to encourage and ensure the regular attendance at work of all its employees and to institute fair, effective and consistent arrangements for dealing with absences and by promoting the health and well-being of staff.

1.2  This Policy & Procedure does not override or supplant in any form the provisions of the Charter & Statutes.

1.3 The University recognises the importance of its responsibility to manage sickness absence and will do so via procedures which incorporate mechanisms to monitor individual attendance levels and where appropriate reduce high levels of sickness absence through proactive management strategies.

1.4 The University also recognises that employee’s form it’s most valuable resource and therefore strives to be a supportive employer and will encourage and develop initiatives to promote the health and well-being of its employees.

1.5  The University will work with appropriate health and other relevant professionals in promoting a healthy working environment; in seeking advice on individual cases; and in monitoring the operation of this Policy and Procedure.

1.6  Concern and understanding will be shown to those employees who genuinely need to be absent and support will be offered during periods of ill health. However, it is recognised that this must be balanced with a need to ensure that the University’s needs are also met. Any deliberate misuse or abuse of this policy may result in disciplinary action as it recognises that this practice has a detrimental impact on colleagues and the delivery of services.

1.7 The University will ensure confidentiality at all times in line with legislation and best practice. Any breach of this will be considered serious and be dealt with through the relevant disciplinary procedure.

1.8 All employees will have the right to be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague at all stages of the procedure. Information relating to an individual’s absence will be shared with the Trade Union only at the request of the individual.

1.9  The University will ensure compliance with all relevant legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 where applicable, in ensuring that all reasonable adjustments are considered to enable the employee to carry out his/her role on a consistent basis.


2.1 Through application of this policy and procedure the University aims to:

  • Provide support to those employees who are unable to work through ill health
  • Ensure a fair and consistent approach to absence which applies to all employees
  • Maximise attendance by keeping all absences to a minimum and to achieve and maintain set target levels 
  • Minimise disruption to operational services and the burden placed upon employees required to cover for colleagues' absences
  • Reduce the direct staffing replacement costs and the efficiency costs associated with sickness absence
  • Deal with short term absence through the application of the triggers outlined in Section 8.5 of the Procedure
  • Deal with long term absence (i.e. a period of 4 or more weeks of consecutive absence) through Section 9 of the Procedure.

2.2 A certain level of absence is unavoidable and this should be recognised. However, it is possible to reduce sickness absence levels through positive measures and an overall management approach.

2.3 In the majority of cases, with proper medical intervention and support an employee's health will improve sufficiently to enable them to return to full health and duties. The objective of balancing time for health improvements with work needs will have to be met. Where the balance proves impossible to achieve, action will be taken in accordance with the procedure.

2.4 Each sickness absence case must be judged on its merits.

2.5 Whilst it is recognised that the individual circumstances of each case must be considered with understanding the importance of the operational effect of the employee's absence must be taken into account.

2.6 This policy and procedure is designed to deal with genuine problems of absence due to unacceptable sickness levels. Where, following investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that absence is not for genuine sickness reasons the normal disciplinary procedures will apply.

2.7 Appeals against decisions taken under this policy will be dealt with under the University’s Employee Appeals Procedure).

Policy & Legal requirements

3.1  The University undertakes to operate procedures under which sickness absence can be managed in a way that is both non-discriminatory and fair to the person concerned, work colleagues and the relevant Faculty/Service Department. The University is committed to addressing matters relating to sickness absence in a fair, confidential, lawful, timely and sensitive manner, and aims to act reasonably at all times, taking account of all the circumstances of the case.

3.2 An employer has a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its employees. Sickness absence is viewed as an issue concerning capability and dismissal on the grounds of capability is potentially a fair reason for dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

3.3 Employees have a statutory right under the Employment Relations Act 1999 to be accompanied by a fellow worker or trade union official where they are required to attend formal disciplinary hearings. (See Section 21 "Other Relevant Documents & Procedures" – Disciplinary Policy and Procedure). 

3.4 Employers must not unfairly discriminate on the grounds of any protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. 

3.5 Under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 an employer must obtain the employee's written consent before applying for a medical report from a doctor who has been responsible for the employee's physical or mental health care. The employee has the right to see the report before it is sent to the University’s Occupational Health Adviser. Employees must be made aware of these rights. The Act does not, however, apply to internal pre-employment screening.

3.6 Under the Employment Rights Act 1996 it is unlawful to make deductions of wages at source unless the law or contract so provides, or unless the employee specifically sanctioned it. An exception to this, which is relevant to this procedure, is overpayment of wages which would include sick pay.


4.1      All employees of the University have a role to play in minimising their own sickness absence. 

4.2 Responsibility for managing absence exists at all levels of management throughout the University. However, the primary responsibility for monitoring and controlling absence on a day to day basis rests with Line Managers.

4.3      Senior Managers are responsible for ensuring:

4.3.1 The engagement of management at all levels in recognising the importance of managing sickness absence in accordance with this policy and procedure.

4.3.2  That the strategy is driven via collective responsibility at Senior Management level. However, the Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development has a particular responsibility to monitor delivery and alert the University Executive Group to any concerns.

4.3.3  That a watching brief is kept of any factors that may be revealed as underlying reasons for absence.           

4.4     Line Managers are responsible for:

4.4.1  Ensuring that they are fully familiar with the policy and procedure.

4.4.2  Ensuring that all sickness absence is recorded and reported to HR.

4.4.3  Conducting return to work interviews with individuals on their return to work promptly.

4.4.4  Ensuring staff are aware of the policy.

4.4.5  Being aware of individuals’ absence records and ensuring that persistent absence is dealt with speedily, effectively and consistently in accordance with the Managing Sickness Absence Policy and the associated Procedure.

4.4.6  Seeking further guidance from HR where appropriate.

4.4.7  Ensuring that communication between Line Managers and employees is maintained at all times.

4.4.8  Ensuring that at all stages of the procedure the appropriate Faculty Manager / Head of Department is kept informed of developments.

4.4.9  Monitoring absence and ensuring that this Policy is implemented within their section or Faculty/Department.

4.4.10 Taking appropriate preventative measures to reduce sickness absence.

4.5     The Human Resources Department is responsible for:

4.5.1  Ensuring that awareness is raised amongst staff of the policy and the procedure.

4.5.2  The design and development of appropriate training and monitoring systems for the operation of this policy and procedure.

4.5.3  Providing advice, guidance and support to Line Managers to support the implementation of the Policy and Procedure.

4.5.4  Providing confidential advice and information to individuals who require guidance or advice in relation to the policy.

4.5.5  Communicating and signposting all mechanisms for accessing support, including counselling and Occupational Health Referrals.

4.5.6  Ensuring that all information relating to individuals is confidential and lawfully processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulations 2018.

4.6     All Employees are responsible for:

4.6.1  Ensuring that they are familiar with the content of this policy and its procedures and that they behave in accordance with this policy. 

4.6.2  Taking all reasonable steps to minimise the length of any sickness absence, in accordance with medical advice.

4.6.3  Co-operating with reasonable requests and complying with the requirements of this policy. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action and possible withdrawal of Occupational Sick Pay. However, this will not affect an employee’s entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay.

4.6.4  Reporting absences promptly in accordance with the procedure and participating fully in return to work interviews.

4.6.5  Ensuring that no other employment is undertaken whilst claiming sick pay.

4.6.6  Keep in regular contact with line-manger or HR representative during their period of sickness absence.

4.6.7 Attending for medical assessment as required.

Training & Awareness

5.1  Training will be provided in this policy and procedure on sickness absence management for all Line Managers to ensure that there is a consistent approach and standard throughout the University. Updates will be provided as a result of changes in legislation and case-law, where appropriate.

Monitoring & Measuring absence

6.1  The Human Resources Department will maintain computer records, indicating the duration and stated reasons for all periods of absence. The information will be used to monitor absence levels, and to indicate where further action may be needed.

6.2  The measurement of absence will allow for accurate information to be compiled and analysed to:

  • identify areas for management action
  • compare absence levels to those of previous periods and establish patterns and trends
  • establish target absence rates and measure progress towards achievement
  • compare performance within the University and with other Higher Education Institutions. 

6.3 Recognised Trade Unions will be consulted on the annual setting of the University’s absence target rate to reduce sickness absence levels.

6.4 Faculty PVCs and Heads of Departments will be required to determine annual target absence rates for their department based on evidence to justify that rate. This will then become an integral part of the departmental business plan.

Welsh Language - Employee Rights

7.1 In accordance with the Welsh Language Standards that came into effect on 1 April 2018 employees have the right to use the Welsh language to

  • make a complaint
  • respond to a complaint or allegation and employees also have the right to use the Welsh language in meetings where they are the subject of: (c) complaints and allegations (or have made the complaint)
  • disciplinary proceedings
  • effective contribution scheme discussions
  • individual consultation meetings

7.2 A simultaneous translation service from Welsh to English will be provided at the meeting when the meeting cannot be conducted solely in Welsh.

7.3 The University has, in conjunction with its recognised trade unions, incorporated the above requirements into all relevant HR policy and procedural documents.

Impact Assessments

8.1  The University is committed to embedding the Equality Scheme into its policies, procedures and practices. This policy has been equality impact assessed in accordance with this scheme. 

8.2  The University is committed to embedding the Welsh Language Standards 2018 in its policies, procedures and practices. This policy has been Welsh language impact assessed in accordance with these standards.

Policy Review

Human Resources will co-ordinate a review of this policy in order to maintain compliance with legislation and good practice. The review will be undertaken in liaison with the recognised trade unions and any proposed amendments will be submitted to the appropriate relevant committee, University Executive and Council if required.

Version 1.1

Last Reviewed: November 2020

Review Date: November 2022