“Can I sack them for being off sick?” is one of the questions I am most often asked by SMEs.

My initial response is always to check what processes have been followed so far. Without the correct audit trail, the business could be at risk of being taken to a tribunal if the employee were dismissed without evidence of a fair process being applied.

The key points SMEs should consider are:

1) Does your sickness policy include trigger points for unacceptable levels of absence along with what action will be taken if those trigger points are reached?

2) Have you recorded each absence, including date, day of the week, reason for the absence and the amount of time taken off?

3) Did you conduct a Return to Work interview after each absence to clarify details of the employee’s illness, giving them the opportunity to explain any other circumstances or underlying causes that you might need to be aware of and enabling you to offer any appropriate support?

4) Have you followed the processes in your Sickness Absence Policy?

5) If you believe that you have done all of the above, make sure you ask a professional to independently check everything over before taking any action. Being taken to a Tribunal for Unfair Dismissal is not only stressful but can cost you up to £86k!