Staff absence is costly, both in financial and educational terms and many schools are fully aware of the levels and impact of staff absence but don’t always follow attendance procedures when trigger points have been met. Genuine staff absence is inevitable but there are measures schools can put in place to support an early return to work and to minimise those one-off absence days which all add up.

Trigger points are the measure for employers to use to monitor staff absence. Once staff hit an absence trigger it’s important a meeting is scheduled to determine the cause of absence, what support can be offered, if any, and to set a target for improvement. This is known as a monitoring round. Staff should be formally invited to meetings where attendance is being reviewed and may be accompanied by a trade union representative or work colleague. Managing this process can be time consuming but does ultimately lead to improved levels of attendance. It’s particularly important for the manager of this process (for equality reasons) to ensure that all staff are subject to the same measures.

Individual policies will use different terms to define the process and managing long-term absence follows a different procedure to short term. In a nutshell:-

Other than the return to work discussions after each staff absence, an initial meeting is often the first formal meeting and is way of finding out if there are any underlying medical conditions or work related causes for absence. It is an opportunity for the school to consider what support, if any, can be provided by the school and may include a referral to Occupational Health, Counselling or completion of an H&S risk assessment. A target for absence is issued which may be adjusted to accommodate for staff who are suffering with longer term medical conditions. Schools often issue a target of, for example, no more than two working days within a 12 working week period.

If the target set is exceeded then a further meeting is scheduled and the process repeated as many times as the attendance procedure allows. At this stage the school, in line with the attendance policy, may issue a formal disciplinary warning. At each stage it is important that any GP or Occupational Health staff information is reviewed to ensure that the target set is appropriate to the circumstances.

If a member of staff is unable to improve attendance to an acceptable level then ultimately it may lead to further warnings including dismissal with notice. Schools must ensure every effort is made to support the employee to sustain and maintain good levels of attendance which will reduce the cost of absence and in turn ensure educational standards are maintained.

If you need any help on how to set up monitoring rounds, set triggers or manage your absences during the Winter months please get in touch, call 01924 827869 or email

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