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PRESS INFORMATION - press enquiries to Sam Dabbs on 07711 672893

30 May 2007

With sick leave costing UK businesses an estimated £12.2 billion per year according to recent figures from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), employers are being urged to take steps to reduce absence in the workplace.

Workers who constantly take time off for minor illnesses can affect the morale of others in the company, says law firm DWF. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to dismiss them provided employers follow the proper procedures.

Joanne Pearce of DWF says: “Employment tribunals recognise that, when poor attendance becomes commercially damaging, it may be reasonable to sack someone. However employers have to give them due warning, take steps to establish the reason and try to rectify the situation first.

“Ascertaining the reason will determine the approach you need to take. There is a clear difference between disciplinary warnings and warnings in cases of genuine but nevertheless disruptive absences. A high number of seemingly unrelated illnesses may suggest malingering, but it could also be someone with a frail immune system, so obtaining medical evidence is advisable.

“Where there is a genuine reason, warnings should be sympathetically worded and should spell out that the level of absenteeism is unacceptable and needs to improve, what steps the employer can take to assist the employee to improve, the timescale for such improvements and the consequences if it does not.”

Employers must ensure they follow the statutory dismissal procedure as well as any internal procedures they may have. The first stage in most procedures is usually an informal discussion. Employers should listen to the worker’s explanation and consider whether the absence is caused by other factors such as harassment or bullying at work, stressful or boring work and domestic or family problems.

Workers have the right to appeal against dismissal but it is advisable to offer this right at any stage of a disciplinary procedure. The medical report should consider whether an employee’s condition is likely to be classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 as such employees have additional legal protection.

Employers should also take into account the nature and length of illnesses, any recent improvement in attendance, the worker’s past service history with the company and the likelihood of improvements, the effect of absence on other workers and on output, and the size and resources of the company.

Pearce adds: “All too often employers are reluctant to tackle people who constantly take time off, yet apart from the cost to the business such behaviour can create resentment amongst others. By monitoring attendance records and taking action where problems do arise, absence can be kept to a minimum.”


Notes to editors:

DWF is one of the fastest growing regional law firms in the UK and has recently merged with Ricksons. With over 820 people based in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Preston, DWF provides a range of services grouped under the following practice areas:

Banking & Finance
Business Recovery
Real Estate
Private Client

DWF has developed extensive sector-specific expertise in a number of areas including: automotive, education, food and resourcing.

Further information on DWF is available via

Media enquiries to:

Sam Dabbs
Dabbs PR & Marketing
T: 01939 210503 or 07711 672893

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