This process sets out the steps we’ll follow to deal with periods of short-term sickness absence and should be read along with the Co-op Absence Policy. All template letters and forms can be found within this page.

1) Absence triggers

As the Absence Policy explains, we have a system of absence triggers in place to help us manage short-term absence. These triggers are:

  • three periods of absence in a rolling 12 month period from the 1st day of absence (two if the colleague is within their probationary period)
  • 20 or more days/shifts of absence in a rolling 12 month period
  • where there is a noticeable pattern of absence. If managers think a pattern of absence is developing they should contact ER Services for advice.

If a colleague reaches one or more of the absence triggers, their manager will speak to them about it during their Return to Work meeting and explain what will happen next.

If a colleague has an active absence warning and is absent again, they’ll be asked to attend an absence review meeting so their manager can discuss their absence levels and see whether things have improved since the warning was given.

Just so it’s clear, any periods of sickness will count towards the absence triggers – although we won’t issue an absence warning for pregnancy-related sickness absence. There’s also a process for managing absences that are prolonged – see the ongoing sickness absence process.

2) First absence review meeting

If a colleague has reached an absence trigger, we’ll invite them to an absence meeting, giving at least 48 hours’ notice, using template letter STS1 (below). If the colleague has also failed to follow the reporting procedure, we may hold one meeting to discuss both the colleague’s absence levels and the disciplinary matter (template letter STS2, below). If the colleague agrees for us to hold the absence review meeting straight away, we’ll do this so a letter won’t be needed.

If the colleague wants to be accompanied to the meeting by a trade union rep or another colleague, they should arrange this and let the manager know before the meeting. There’s more information on the role of the workplace representative in the Guide to Workplace Representatives.

Before the absence review meeting, managers should review all the information they have about the colleague’s absence – including completed Return to Work forms (below), Self-Certification forms (below) and Occupational Health or other medical reports.

At the meeting, the manager will discuss whether there are any concerns about the colleague’s level of absence. They’ll ask them to talk about their absences and if there are any factors contributing to them – such as a workplace issue or an ongoing or underlying medical condition. If needed they may ask the colleague to agree to a referral to Occupational Health. If appropriate, they’ll discuss any possible adjustments that may help and record what’s agreed in a work adjustments form (below).

The manager should take a colleague with them to the meeting to take detailed notes of what was discussed. At the end of the meeting, we’ll ask everyone to read and sign the notes to make sure they’re an accurate reflection of what was discussed.

The manager will then adjourn the meeting while they make their decision.

3) Rearranging the absence review meeting

Colleagues should do their best to attend, but if they or their chosen representative can’t make it, they should tell the manager holding the meeting as soon as possible letting them know dates and times they can make and the manager will try to rearrange it for a time that works for everyone.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for the meeting, without telling us in advance, we’ll rearrange it and write to confirm the new details using template letter STS3 (below).

If they don’t turn up for the rearranged meeting, we’ll look at all the evidence available and make a decision without them being there – unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case we’ll rearrange it once more.

Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

4) Outcomes to absence review meeting

The manager will consider all of the information and decide whether or not to issue the colleague with a First Absence Warning. If so, they should confirm this in a letter (template letter STS6 (below), normally within 14 calendar days of the meeting, but if it’s likely to take longer we’ll let the colleague know (template letter STS4, below). The letter will include a copy of the notes from the meeting.

If the manager decides to issue a First Absence Warning, the letter will set out what the colleague needs to do to improve their absence levels. The warning will be live for six months.

If the manager decides that no further action should be taken, then they’ll send the colleague a letter (STS5, below) to explain that the matter is now closed and thank them for their co-operation.

Just so it’s clear, absence warnings are different to, and separate from, any disciplinary warnings a colleague may get.

5) Second absence review meeting

If the colleague has a further period of absence while the first warning is live, we’ll hold a second absence review meeting (template letter STS1, STS3 to reschedule the meeting) following the same process as in Section 2.

If the colleagues’ absence level has not improved, the manager may decide to issue a Second Absence Warning, which will be live for nine months (template letter STS7, below).

If the manager decides that no further action should be taken, then they’ll send the colleague a letter (STS5, see section 4 above) to explain that the matter is now closed and thank them for their co-operation.

6) Third absence review meeting

If the colleague’s absent again while the second warning is live, we’ll invite them to a third absence review meeting (template letter STS1, STS3 to reschedule the meeting) following the same process as in Section 2.

If the colleague’s absence level has not improved, the outcome of this meeting may be a Third Absence Warning, which will be live for twelve months (template letter STS8, below).

If the manager decides that no further action should be taken, then they’ll send the colleague a letter (STS5 - see section 4) to explain that the matter is now closed and thank them for their co-operation.

7) Final absence meeting

If the colleague is absent again while the third warning is live, we’ll invite them to attend a final absence review meeting. The letter will tell them that an outcome of this meeting could be dismissal (template letter STS9, STS10 (below) to rearrange the meeting).

After the meeting, we’ll confirm the decision in writing and the letter will include the details of how to appeal (template letter STS11 or STS12 (below) as appropriate).

Again, if the manager decides that no further action should be taken, then they’ll confirm this to the colleague using template letter STS5 (see section 4).

Managers should call ER Services for advice before dismissing a colleague.

8) Appeal

The colleague can appeal against an absence warning – either in a letter or by completing the template Absence Appeal Form. The colleague should give the grounds for their appeal as either;

  • new information or evidence is available that wasn’t considered before
  • the process wasn’t followed correctly, or
  • they feel the outcome wasn’t fair and reasonable

Colleagues should send their appeal within seven calendar days of receiving the outcome letter – but we’ll give them longer in exceptional circumstances.

9) Appeal Meeting

The appeal meeting will be with an independent manager who’s had nothing to do with the original decision.

The appeal manager will invite the colleague to an appeal meeting (template letter STS13, below) giving them at least 48 hours’ notice. This will usually be within 14 calendar days of getting the appeal letter, but we’ll let the colleague know if it’s going to take longer (template letter STS14, below).

If the colleague wants to be accompanied to the appeal meeting by a trade union rep or another colleague, they should arrange this and let the manager know before the meeting. There’s more information on the role of the workplace representative in the Guide to Workplace Representatives.

At the appeal meeting, we’ll ask the colleague to explain the reasons for their appeal and why they feel that the original outcome wasn’t appropriate. The manager will adjourn the meeting if necessary to get further evidence or interview witnesses. If there is any further evidence, we’ll make sure the colleague is given a copy or provided access to it is and give them the opportunity to respond to it.

The appeal manager will take a colleague to the meeting with them to take notes and at the end of the meeting everyone will be asked to check and sign the notes. The manager will then adjourn the meeting while they make their decision.

10) Rearranging the appeal meeting

Colleagues should do their best to attend the appeal meeting, but if they or their chosen representative can’t make it, they should tell the manager holding the meeting as soon as possible letting them know dates and times they can make and the manager will try to rearrange it for a time that works for everyone.

If the colleague doesn’t turn up for the appeal meeting without telling us in advance, we’ll rearrange it and write to confirm the new details using template letter STS15 (below) – unless we agree to deal with things in writing. If they don’t turn up for the rearranged meeting, we’ll consider the matter closed and write to confirm this (template letter STS16, below) – unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case we’ll rearrange it once more. Any rescheduled meetings will usually be within a week of the original meeting time.

11) Appeal outcomes

Once the appeal manager has reached their decision, they should confirm it to the colleague in writing. This will normally be within 14 calendar days, but again, if it’s going to take longer we’ll keep the colleague informed (template letter STS17, below).

The appeal manager may decide to:

• Reject the appeal – so the original decision is upheld (template letter STS18 or STS19) • Uphold the appeal – and remove the Absence Warning (template letter STS20) • Uphold the appeal – and overturn the dismissal (template letter STS21)

Letter templates can be found below.

This ends the appeals process.