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3: Missing someone?

Did you know?

  • Even the most committed employee’s ability to attend can be hampered by unforeseeable circumstances like sickness, accidents, transport problems, family and household emergencies.
  • Many of the signs of workplace stress are noticeable and include changes in a person’s mood or behaviour. For example, deteriorating relationships with colleagues, irritability, indecisiveness, reduced performance, increased mistakes, increased use of stimulants such as smoking, alcohol and other drug use.

Manager’s good practice checklist

Have a protocol in place

  • adopt a protocol that is consistent with the agency’s enterprise agreement
  • be familiar with any graduated return to work programs
  • ensure absent employees know who to contact, by when
  • know what questions should be asked when absent employees call, to ensure all important information is covered (see Section 4)
  • discuss reallocation of tasks.

Establish and maintain reasonable contact

  • discuss circumstances and offer support
  • explore all relevant leave options, and if suitable offer alternative leave arrangements
  • explore working from home possibilities depending on the reason for the absence
  • check what essential work priorities need to be attended to
  • agree on contact arrangements if the employee is going to be away for more than a few days
  • note the absence and diarise next contact.

Hold an informal discussion on return

  • welcome the employee back to work and let them know they were missed
  • check the employee is recovered and fit to be at work
  • update the employee on work matters that have occurred during their absence
  • remind the employee to submit leave requests.

Attend to administration promptly

  • cross-check leave applications with valid evidence and your diary notes
  • promptly approve leave following your agency’s procedure.

Ask your Human Resources area:

  • how to interpret and apply leave provisions
  • what to do if you have doubts over the validity of the absence
  • how to securely file private and sensitive documents.


  • If you identify a pattern of absenteeism, speak to the employee to understand their circumstances. If the employee is comfortable discussing their situation with you, be prepared to actively listen.
  • Explore the suitability of alternatives to being absent the whole day – for example, use of the agency’s carer’s room, taking a part-day absence, sharing the time required with their partner/other person; if part-time, swapping with another day in the week, if appropriate, or a temporary teleworking arrangement.
  • Have a work allocation discussion, considering the employee’s current deadlines, call forwarding options and commitments to other clients. Make sure work allocation is a consideration, as this shows the employee that they are missed.
  • Regularly monitor and analyse the workplace and absences to identify signs, triggers and patterns.
Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018