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I have a situation where an employee was refused a holiday request as too many other staff were on holiday at the same time so we just couldn't agree to the time off. It came to the first day of the week for which the holiday was requested and this employee has rung in ill and said they're going to be off sick for a week. Is there anything I can do? - Crowther Image

Whilst it’s understandable that you jump to the conclusion that your employee is pulling a ‘sickie’, you should take care to not act hastily because this could leave them in a worse position. The situation does need to be investigated, even if they currently think all the signs point towards the obvious.

There’s nothing you can really do whilst the employee is off ill apart from keeping in touch with the employee following your normal processes. This means it’s important to follow a structured return to work plan when they are back in the office. A return to work meeting is important here because you can use the opportunity to ask the employee about their illness, the symptoms and if they’re feeling better in order to assess whether the illness was genuine. This should also be the time where you collect documentation, either a self-certification form or fit note, to count as evidence of the absence and the reason for absence.

Though this may seem innefective because the person has already been absent, employees are less likely to take false sickness if they know they have to explain themselves when they come back to work.

If you have reasonable grounds to believe that the illness was false, for example, by having a witness who has informed you of their plan, their reasons don’t match up or evidence gathered by reasonable means such as photos posted on social media sites, then your absence policy might allow you to treat the absence as unauthorised and then take disciplinary action against the employee.

Importantly, reasonable action should be taken against the matter to ensure that other employees don’t do the same thing and you should continue to measure levels of sickess absence. Additionally, if the business doesn’t have an absence policy then now might be the right time to introduce one so that action can be taken the next time.


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