Handling sickness absence can be a very sensitive and tricky issue to deal with. Again, it is best to have a clear policy on absence management which is accessible to staff and applied fairly to all. Whatever the reason for the absence, accurate record keeping and monitoring are essential.
Short term absence
Regular absences of one or two days can cause disruption to your business. It is however important to be mindful of the frequency and timing of these absences. If you notice employees are regularly taking Mondays or Fridays off work then it could be something which you may need to address. However, it is dangerous to assume that all employees who have short term absences are "pulling a sickie". You must take each employee's case on its own merits.
Back to work meetings following a period of absence are an effective way of addressing any issues.
Long term sickness absence
It is important that you maintain regular contact with the employee so you can keep up to date on his or her health condition.
In situations of long term absence it is usually best to consult with a medical professional. This can be by a referral to your Occupational Health team or by writing directly to the employee's GP to ask for a medical opinion. In order to approach an employee's GP you will need to get their consent to do so.
In some cases the employee may have an underlying health condition which if substantial could amount to a disability. If so then you have a legal duty to consider adjustments to the employee's environment, duties or working hours to assist them in returning to work.
If no alternatives are available and after taking medical advice you are clear that there is little chance of the employee being able to return to work in the near future then it may be fair to dismiss the employee.