Go to top of page

When an employee lets you know they're not coming in today

Even the most engaged and productive employee will experience sickness or situations that prevent them from coming to work. A manager's response on these occasions can have an impact on the individual's engagement with work, length of time away from the office, and future absences.

Your role is to support employees and ensure you have the information you need to keep things running in their absence. When employees call, text or email to let you know they're not able to attend work, you should always find out:

  1. Why they're not able to come to work.
  2. How long they're likely to be away for.
  3. If anything needs to be progressed at work while they're away.

A clear, well-communicated procedure for what happens when someone calls in sick helps to avoid any misunderstandings and enables you to get the information you need. It's important to record absences and their reason so you can identify any patterns. It could be as simple as recording the information in a personal spreadsheet or speaking with your HR area to see whether they can provide any assistance with extracting the data you need.

Listening and reserving judgement at this stage is critical. It might seem obvious but when you are busy, the importance of listening can sometimes be forgotten. If this was you ringing in sick, how would you feel and what would you want your manager to say?

If the employee is going to be off for more than a day, discuss how often you will keep in touch and who will contact who. This will reassure the employee and enable you to cover their workload. It is also an opportunity to discuss options for their date of return and consider what support you can offer.

Research1 suggests that having a return to work conversation is one of the most effective ways to manage attendance and reduce absence. Keep reading to find out more.

1 http://www.nhsemployers.org/sickness-absence/returning-to-work/return-to-work-meeting-and-plan

Last reviewed: 
29 May 2018