Absence definition

Time taken off work by an employee, split into authorised absence and unauthorised absence.

Authorised absence refers to absence approved by someone with permission to do so e.g. an employee’s manager. Absence commonly authorised includes annual leave, time off in lieu (TOIL), maternity, paternity and reasonable sick leave. However, these occasions can form unauthorised absences if the stakeholder does not agree the absence was justified or met certain conditions, such as holiday being agreed in line with the company’s policies.

Unauthorised absence occurs when the employee is not given permission for absence, or is not given permission after it has occurred, and can include long-term sick leave without reasonable supporting evidence and persistent lateness.

Absence provides a number of challenges to the HR function, including the administrative burden of recording and tracking the absence records of employees. HR must also find the most effective ways to tackle unauthorised absence to prevent reoccurrence and increase the employee’s loyalty and engagement.

It’s important for HR departments to have a clear and comprehensive absence policy in place that includes acceptable and unacceptable reasons for absence. It should detail procedures for reporting absence i.e. when and how employees should make contact when they expect to be absent, as well as the notice required to book blocks of holiday.