Absence

Background
The basis of the employment contract is that in return for a set number of hours contributed by the employee, the employer pays an agreed wage or salary. Many employers provide paid contractual leave when an employee is sick - as well as being required to pay Statutory Sick Pay. Inevitably, some employees take advantage and over claim. A system of recording and monitoring absence can help ensure legitimate absence is paid for - and malingering is controlled.

Commentary
Absence is either 'Authorised' or 'Unauthorised' - and both headings cover several categories, all of which need to be identified and procedures devised for dealing with them fairly.

1. Holidays
a. Statutory. Employers must provide four weeks paid HOLIDAY (including paid bank holidays) within their holiday year for all employees.

b. Contractual. Any holiday entitlement in addition to the statutory right should be specified in the CONTRACT with provisions covering the calculation and payment. Clear rules regarding the allocation should avoid any uncertainty regarding entitlement. Each employee's entitlement should be posted in each department and each day taken recorded permanently both there and centrally on the Absence Form (see below).

2. Sickness
Occupational entitlement should be specified in the contract with provisions covering the calculation, payment, relationship with SSP and monitoring. (See SICKNESS).

3. Leave of Absence

a. Statutory.

i. Under the Employment Relations Act 1999, employees who are parents (both natural and adoptive) are entitled to unpaid parental leave of up to 13 (18 if the child is disabled) weeks (see LEAVE).

ii. Employers must also allow employees a reasonable amount of unpaid time off for 'family emergencies' (See LEAVE).

b. Contractual.

If any other amounts of leave are allowed, or allowed after a probationary period, or set interval, etc., the exact rules for applying, using and returning must be clearly set out.

4. Public Service

Employees must be allowed time off with or without pay to carry out various 'public' duties, including:

a. jury service (unpaid, although the employee will usually be entitled to a small allowance and certain expenses from the State).

b. MILITARY SERVICE.

c. serving as justice of the peace, local councillor, member of statutory tribunal, member of regional health authority, governor or manager of a state school, or as a member of a water authority.

Some employers also allow time off, for example, to part-time firefighters and lifeboat personnel etc. (see LEAVE).

5. Statutory Rights to Paid Absence
These include:

- attending ante-natal appointments (subject to production of an appointment card)

- MATERNITY leave (subject to service)

- paternity leave (see LEAVE)

- ADOPTION leave

- to seek alternative work and/or arrange training during REDUNDANCY

- for 16 and 17 years olds who have not attained pre-determined levels of education, time off to attend classes intended to enable them to attain such levels (regulations under the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998). (See TRAINING)

- to carry out duties for which the employees have been elected

6. Statutory Rights to Unpaid Absence
a. The public leaves referred to above.

b. EMERGENCY LEAVE.

c. Parental LEAVE.

7. Employees Absences Capable of Being Authorised Subject to Application

a. To act as a witness. Unpaid leave can be given, whether payment is to be made is for individual employers to determine.

b. To undergo medical examinations and/or treatment.

c. To observe religious holidays other than those covered by UK bank and public holidays.

d. Where time within, rather than the whole of, the working day is needed. This can be covered by a 'pass out' system where an employee is issued with a signed authority to be absent from work during the working day - such authority being surrendered on return (the time of exit and return being noted, and, if required, pay being adjusted.

8. Unauthorised
Absences other than the above can be described as Unauthorised: for example, under the NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE regulations, whilst workers must be paid for all time worked at a rate at least equal to the NMW rate, they are not entitled to be paid for time spent on industrial action which is regarded as 'absence'.

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