Absence triggers

Guidance for managers on absence triggers

A sickness absence trigger level is defined as the level or frequency of absence over a prescribed period that gives rise to concern. It is also the level set by the Council that prompts an automatic intervention by an employee’s line manager under the Supporting Attendance at Work Policy and Procedures. Further guidance on short term absences and long term absences provides details of what will happen once a trigger is reached. 

The purpose of the trigger is to ensure the line manager reviews the employee’s attendance record and provides appropriate support and assistance where necessary to enable them to attend work.

On each occasion that an episode of sickness absence occurs, the line manager will review the employee’s record of absence over the previous 12-month rolling period. Where the absence results in a trigger being reached, appropriate action will be taken by the manager.

What are the absence triggers?

The Council’s corporately agreed triggers are:

  • Four or more instances of sickness absence in a twelve-month rolling period, irrespective of the length of absence
  • Ten or more cumulative days of sickness absence within a twelve month rolling period
  • Continuous absence of more than 28 days
  • Where the reason for the absence is stress or a similar condition.

Managers are entitled to raise concerns about attendance with employees at any stage. This is relevant, but not limited to, cases where patterns of absence emerge which do not meet the triggers above and therefore do not automatically lead to a Supporting Attendance Meetings.

When managing attendance, managers will need to exercise discretion and employ a test of ‘reasonableness’ taking into account the level of absence, the employee’s absence history and the operational effect this is having on the Service and other colleagues.  Managers must remember that each employee and their absence record is unique and should look at the circumstances of each period of absence leading up to the trigger including:

  • The reason for each absence and whether there is any connection between them;
  • The duration of each period of sickness absence;
  • Identifying any work based patterns and any links to any other leave. Although managers should be alert to the possibility of any pattern, for example frequent absence on Mondays, or before or after leave, managers should remain open-minded and not jump to  conclusions about an employee’s absences; and
  • The impact on service delivery/team morale.

Triggers for part time employees 

These pro-rata triggers will ensure that the opportunity to support part time staff in early course at a Supporting Attendance Meeting is not missed.

The threshold of 10 days’ absence in a twelve-month period that requires a full time employees to attend a Stage 1 and Stage 2 Supporting Attendance Meeting with their manager will be pro-rated for part time workers. This is shown in the table below:

Number of working days the employee

works per week (full or part days)

Trigger for cumulative days

of sickness absence


For example, an employee who works two days per week will trigger a Supporting Attendance Meeting – Stage 1, if they have 4 cumulative working days’ absence in a rolling 12-month period.

Should an employee’s contractual status change during a Supporting at Work attendance monitoring period, for example they go from full time to part time, then the existing trigger set (for full time staff) will apply until the employee is invited to another meeting in line with this procedure, and a new trigger (for part time staff) is set.

Where the employee’s part-time working pattern is variable, the number of working days per week will be averaged to the nearest whole number. 

The trigger for four or more instances of sickness absence in a twelve-month rolling period (irrespective of the length of absence) will apply to both part-time and full-time employees.