How to review your staff sickness and absence policy

Know what to look out for and what questions you can ask to review your staff sickness and absence policy with confidence.

Last reviewed on 22 December 2022
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  1. Key facts
  2. Key points to look out for
  3. 3 key questions to challenge the policy
  4. Model staff sickness and absence policy
  5. Examples from schools and trusts

Key facts

  • This policy is non-statutory
  • You can delegate the approval of this policy to an individual or committee
  • The board determines the review cycle
  • The headteacher and senior leadership team will write and be responsible for the implementation of this policy

Key points to look out for

Clear procedures for managing both short-term and long-terms sickness absence

You'll want to see that staff have information on the different stages of each process, and about the possible outcomes. This should also include staff's rights to be accompanied to formal meetings, and information about the appeals process.

Different types of absence are clearly set out as being paid or unpaid

It should be clear whether each type of absence covered by the policy will be paid or unpaid. This is so that all staff members are treated fairly and equally. 

A return-to-work process

This should include the expectations and responsibilities of both the staff member and their line manager. It should also include information on how a phased return would work, such as possible time periods and how the staff member will be paid, for example by combining hours worked with statutory sick pay.

3 key questions to challenge the policy

1. Have you consulted the unions represented at our school/in our trust?

This is best practice and highly recommended before implementing any policy referring to staff expectations. If the answer is no, you'll want to be assured that your senior leaders have taken advice from HR professionals. 

2. How does this policy take into account staff wellbeing?

You'll want to know that your senior leaders have considered staff morale and wellbeing in writing this policy. Does the policy indicate that staff will be supported in the workplace at difficult times, such as around serious illness? 

3. Maintained schools only: does the policy take into account any requirements our local authority (LA) has?

Expect an answer that explains whether your school leaders have adapted a policy provided by the LA. If they've written the policy themselves, they should be clear whether LA requirements such as set time periods have been included.

Find more questions to ask when you review any policy.

Model staff sickness and absence policy

This model policy is not meant as a guide for writing it, as that's your senior leadership team's job. It's here to give you a sense of what a good policy looks like.

It's been approved by Forbes Solicitors the NAHT union for school leaders. 

Download: sickness and absence model policy

Examples from schools and trusts

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