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ACAS Unveils New Guidance on Navigating Sickness Absence Management 

By August 21, 2023Employment

ACAS released new guidance earlier this month for an inevitable challenge for businesses of all sizes: sickness absence.  

The new ACAS guidance provides a valuable toolkit designed for small businesses, offering essential strategies for managing sickness absence. This includes practical resources like a step-by-step method for addressing employee sickness and top tips for effective absence management by managers. 

Small businesses can swiftly access this toolkit through the following link: [ACAS Toolkit]

ACAS’s extensive guidance also includes detailed notes on various types of absence, accessible here: [ACAS Detailed Guidance]

1. Clear Expectations and Policies

Employers are advised to establish clear expectations for staff regarding time off work. ACAS recommends implementing comprehensive policies covering sickness absence, holiday, parental leave, medical appointments, bereavement, extreme weather, and travel disruptions. This ensures a consistent approach and reduces ambiguity. 

2. Medical Reports

The guidance clarifies the instances where obtaining a medical report is advisable. ACAS further outlines how employers can approach a request for a medical report and what information should be shared with the employee about the request.

ACAS recommends considering obtaining a medical report in the following situations: 

  • Assessing the employee’s fitness for their role. 
  • Preventing health and safety risks. 
  • Exploring potential changes to reduce absenteeism. 
  • Managing long-term or repeated short-term absences (e.g., to understand reasons for absence). 
  • Addressing capability concerns, especially when considering dismissal. 
  • Determining eligibility for company sick pay. 
  • Checking qualifications for permanent health insurance or ill-health early retirement schemes. 
  • Evaluating the need for reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. 

3. Long-COVID Considerations

ACAS acknowledges the relevance of long-COVID and provides insights for employers dealing with this ongoing concern.

4. Return-to-Work Meetings

ACAS highlights the significance of holding informal discussions between the employee and their manager as part of the return-to-work process. This interaction is crucial to address any outstanding issues effectively. Particularly, ACAS emphasises the importance for employers to remain vigilant about potential underlying reasons for absence, such as work-related stress or disabilities. The guidance provides insights into the topics that should be covered during return-to-work meetings and offers guidance for managers on preparation. ACAS encourages managers to consider the support that can be extended to the employee and how to respond to inquiries regarding the provision of assistance.

5. Balancing Contact

Maintaining appropriate levels of contact with absent employees is crucial. The guidance acknowledges the delicate balance, particularly for mental health-related absences, where regular contact is essential but not overwhelming.

6. Inclusive Updates

ACAS highlights the significance of keeping all absent employees informed about workplace developments, including advancement opportunities, to avoid potential discrimination claims.

7. Recording Absence

Properly recording absences to aid in identifying patterns and root causes, while adhering to data protection laws and avoiding discriminatory practices.

8. Trigger Points and Flexibility

While ‘trigger points’ for absence review can be effective, ACAS advises flexibility and sensitivity to individual circumstances, especially for disabled employees, to ensure compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

Employers of all sizes are encouraged to engage with the new ACAS guidance to ensure that their approach to absence management remains current and effective. 

If you have any questions or require further guidance, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Team at   

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Mohurije Masoom

Author Mohurije Masoom

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