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When there is a pattern of absenteeism

If you have noticed a pattern of absenteeism, you may need to follow a more structured approach. The intention is the same as a check-in conversation—to find out from the employee whether there is an underlying issue impacting on their attendance that you can help with.

Tools and resources


  • Review the employee's attendance record for the previous 12 months and notes/action points arising from any previous return to work discussions.
  • Book a meeting room or a private space, and organise to meet with the employee on the first day back at work, or shortly afterwards.
  • Consider if HR should attend the meeting.

During the meeting

  • Welcome the employee back to work. Explain the purpose of the meeting and encourage a two-way discussion.
  • Check that the employee is ready to return, and has not come back too early.
  • Use open questions to gather as much information as possible.
  • Remember, this is a return-to-work conversation, not a disciplinary hearing. If taking action to manage underperformance becomes appropriate, deal with this separately, and in accordance with your agency's procedures.
  • Identify the cause of the absence, and explore ways this can be addressed in the future.
  • Be sensitive and considerate to the employee.
  • Discuss whether adjustments can be made to alleviate issues impacting on the employee.

After the meeting

  • Make note of your discussions, covering all the points raised.
  • Consider any reasonable adjustments you can make.
  • Determine whether you need to deal with the poor attendance as a performance or engagement issue.
  • Continue to monitor the attendance, and take further action where problems continue or return.
Last reviewed: 
29 May 2018