Sickness absence

If you are unwell and cannot come to work

  • Telephone your manager within thirty minutes of your expected start time. Only in exceptional circumstances should someone else call for you
  • If you cannot telephone, or are unable to speak to your manager, some form of contact should be made with your department. A text message is not an acceptable form of notification unless this has been agreed previously
  • Explain the reason for your absence so that it can be recorded on the absence notification form [pdf] and agree when you will next be in touch
  • If your absence lasts for four or more calendar days you need to complete a sickness self-certification form [pdf]. This must be sent to Payroll
  • If your absence is for eight or more calendar days you must see a doctor to get a Statement of Fitness for Work (Fit Note)
  • Post your Fit Note to your manager, marked ‘Addressee only’ or hand it to them personally if you are meeting with them
  • If you are still ill at the end of the period on the Fit Note, you must see your doctor again and if necessary get a further Fit Note. If you are ready to return to work during or at the end of the period specified on your Fit Note you don't need to return to your doctor
  • When you return to work make sure that you have a Return to Work discussion with your manager

Departmental reporting arrangements

The steps above are the minimum requirements of the University.

Departments may have more specific reporting procedures (eg a requirement to contact a specific person, or to make contact before the start of your shift/working day).

You should ensure that you are aware of and follow any reporting procedures your department has in place.

Recording the absence

  1. When an employee who is sick contacts you, begin completing a sickness absence form [pdf]
  2. Maintain contact with the employee where possible
  3. Forward any medical certificates to Payroll:
    • Absences of 7 calendar days or less don't require a Statement of Fitness for Work (or 'Fit Note'). The employee should complete an sickness self-certification form [pdf] on their return to work if their absence lasts for 4 or more calendar days.
    • Absences of 8 calendar days or more require certification by a doctor. Make sure that your employee is aware they need a Fit Note if their absence is going to continue for 8 days or more. They should also complete the sickness self-certification form [pdf] on their return to work

    (All sickness, whether self-certified or covered by a Fit Note, will be accepted as justification for absence. If exceptionally you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a reported sickness absence is not genuine, you should take advice from your HR Adviser or Partner.)

  4. Make sure the employee is listed on your department's weekly absence report for Payroll [doc] and the reason for absence recorded
  5. When the employee returns hold a return to work discussion (see below). Complete the return to work discussion form [pdf]
  6. If an employee returns from sickness absence on a phased basis make sure that the days when they do not work are recorded as sickness absence on your department's absence report for Payroll [doc].

Holding a return to work discussion

An informal return to work discussion should take place with all your employees on their return from sick leave, irrespective of grade or length of sickness absence:

  • in cases of short-term absence this should wherever possible take place on the first day of return
  • in cases of long-term absence the discussion may take place shortly before the date of return to ensure that appropriate temporary adjustments in are in place to support an employee back into the workplace

The purpose of the discussion is to:

  • welcome the employee back, ensuring that they are fit to return to work and give them the opportunity to discuss their current state of health and any issues relating to their welfare
  • provide an opportunity for the employee to raise issues of concern in a confidential manner
  • advise the employee how their work was covered during their absence and brief them on anything that has occurred while they have been absent
  • give the employee the opportunity to indicate if any work-related issues may be impacting on their health and discuss any support they may need
  • where the issue is one of short-term absence, review the employee’s attendance record and inform them of their total amount of absence in the last 12 months. The employee should be told if, at this stage, formal action may be considered if they are absent again, ie if their absence is considered to be frequent (three or more absences totalling ten or more days within 12 months)
  • in cases of long term absence the return to work discussion should include discussion around how the employee will be temporarily supported back to their full duties, or any longer term adjustments needed

The discussion should be recorded on the return to work discussion form [pdf]. This should be retained on the employee’s personal file to inform at any future discussion about their sickness absence.

Occasional short-term sickness absence

What do I need to do? For somebody only absent on an occasional short-term basis all that will usually be required is a brief, routine return to work discussion with their line manager.

Anything else? This discussion may uncover issues (such as a newly acquired disability or changed personal circumstances) which require addressing, either by the University or the employee. If you need assistance in tackling these issues, contact your HR Adviser.

Frequent short-term sickness absence

Three or more instances of sickness absence amounting to 10 or more days in a twelve month period

Frequent, short-term absences are a particular problem as it is difficult to plan for their impact. The impact can be substantial and have a negative effect on colleagues, students or other service users.

What do I need to do? If an employee frequently has short-term absences you should follow the managing ill health and sickness absence procedure and guidance. There is a point - 3 or more absences totalling 10 or more days - where you should be considering further action in accordance with the procedure and guidance.

Long-term sickness absence

Absences of more than 28 days

Any period of absence from work because of sickness or ill health lasting for four weeks or more is considered as long-term sickness. This includes:

  • long-term absence because of a single illness or disability
  • repeated periods of absence arising from a single illness or disability

What do I need to do? Staff who are absent from work because of a long-term health problem remain the responsibility of their department. If your employee has been - or looks likely to be - absent for 28 days or more then you should be managing the absence according to the procedure and guidance.


Reviewing absence records

You can view your own absence record, and the records of staff who report to you, using our online Tableau workbook.

What is it? Your absence record, plus the records of any staff who report to you

What do I use it for? Reviewing absence, return to work meetings

Who has access?
Pilot departments: Chemistry, Information Directorate, Registrar's and Planning, and Student and Academic Services

From October: Arts and humanities and social science departments

From November: Science departments

From December: All other support departments

Sickness absence procedure and guidance

The University's approach to managing absence is described in full in the managing ill-health and sickness absence procedure and guidance.