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Managing Employees with Excessive Absenteeism Due to Illness and Injury


It is a frustrating situation when you have employees who are constantly absent from work. It is important to respond to and manage appropriately employees’ absences if it is becoming an issue and is adversely affecting the operation of your business.


Can I dismiss an employee who has been excessively absent from work?

The Fair Work Act protects an employee from being dismissed due to a temporary absence for illness or injury:

  • for less than 3 consecutive months or less than 3 months in total over the last 12 months, or
  • where an employee is on paid personal leave for the duration of the absence.

The period the employee is on workers’ compensation payment doesn’t count into the calculation of the length of the absence.


Can I dismiss an employee who has been absent for more than 3 months?

If an employee has been absent for more than 3 months consecutively or in total over the last 12 months, and they have used all of their paid sick leave, the employer may need to assess whether the employee has the capacity to return to their substantive duties. The employer will need to rely on medical evidence in determining whether the employee should be let go due to their capacity to return to their duties. Dismissing an employee without following the appropriate procedures may trigger an unfair dismissal applicable or a claim under general protection provisions.

if an employee’s absences result in poor performance, the employer should follow its company’s performance management process to provide the employee with opportunities to improve and warn the employee that their employment might be at risk if their performance is not improved.


Record keeping is key

Members are reminded that record keeping is crucial in defending an unfair dismissal application or a general protection claim. With proper records, members will find themselves in a good position to respond to a claim. Examples of records you should keep while managing excessively absenteeism:

  • Employee’s leave records and the reason for the leave
  • Feedback or complaints from other workers/managers/customers
  • Performance management plan if the reason for dismissal is poor performance
  • Medical evidence that the dismissal is based on if the dismissal is due to incapacity to perform substantive duties
  • Verbal and written warnings about their performance
  • Termination letter


For more information about long periods of sick leave, click here.

If you need assistance or have any questions about managing employees with extended leave, contact our Workplace Relations and Legal Team on 02 6175 5900.