Absence from work


What is absence?

Absence is when;

  1. You don’t turn up at work or tell anyone that you are not coming in.
  2. You are away from work without permission (HR calls this unauthorised absence).
  3. You have permission to be away from work repeatedly (HR calls this authorised short-term absence with or without a medical condition).
  4. You have permission to be away from work for a long time (HR calls this long-term absence).

Each of these is dealt with differently under your employers absence or sick leave policy and procedure. S98 (2)(a) Employment Rights Act 1996 makes capability a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee. Absence from work falls under “capability”.  Every dismissal has to be for a potentially fair reason under s.98 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). The potentially fair reasons for sickness absence dismissal are;

  1. Conduct – s.98(2)(b) Employment Rights Act 1996 for example where your absence is persistent and unauthorised, or you lie about being sick.
  2. Capability – s.98(2)(a) Employment Rights Act 1996 for example where your long or frequent absences affect your ability to do your job.
  3. Some other substantial reason (SOSR) – s.98(1)(b) Employment Rights Act 1996 for example where your absence is negatively affecting your employer’s business.

A prolonged unauthorised absence from work can lead to your dismissal for frustration of contract or abandonment of employment (depending on the reason for your absence). Your employer can dismiss you because they need to get work done and you are not there to carry out the work or you are too ill to do so. Your employer will have to go through particular steps to dismiss you for absence.

See – I’m facing disciplinary action


Employee Rescue Guides


Best of the web

HSE – Sickness absence ; Guidance on legal issues

GOV.UK – Taking sick leave

ACAS – Managing staff absence



This resource is published by Employee Rescue Limited. Please note that the information and any commentary on the law contained herein is provided free of charge for information purposes only. The information and commentary does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice. Employee Rescue accepts no responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material contained in this update. Further specialist advice should be taken before relying on the contents of this summary. No part of this summary may be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the prior permission of Employee Rescue Ltd.

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