laptop and stethoscope next to it

Tips for managing absences in GP practices

The healthcare sector is, at the time of writing, under a significant amount of pressure as it still tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and a backlog of patients needing treatment. This has led to employment and HR challenges as employees are being absent more frequently, especially at key patient touchpoints like GP practices. In this guide, we’ll be exploring what employers can do to effectively manage absences in GP practices that ensure the best outcomes for both parties.  

The impact of frequent absences in GP practices 

GP practices rely on all their employees to offer the best patient experience and play a vital role in ensuring the practice runs smoothly. Depending on the exact role and responsibilities of the employee who is off work, their absence could result in: 

  • Disruption to patient services 
  • Increased pressure on other employees 
  • Extra financial costs for the practice 
  • A negative impact on staff morale 

Managing absences in GP practices is essential from an operational perspective, but it needs to be handled with care with all potential risks being identified and planned for.  

What can GP practices do to manage absences?

Keeping in regular contact with employees and ensuring they report any absences as soon as possible is important in absence management. This is because with enough notice you can try to organise cover for that employee and minimise disruption to day-to-day operations. Also, having ongoing contact with employees will help to build your relationship with them and get a better understanding of why they are taking absences from work.  

If employees are taking regular absences and it is beginning to have a negative effect on the running of the practice, it might reach a stage where the employee needs to be reminded of the absence policy in their contract or employee handbook. If the employee has a renewed awareness of the policy and the potential consequences if they are continually absent, it might help them be more aware of their attendance at work and reduce the number of absences, before it reaches any disciplinary action.  

If you have software in your practice that tracks employee holidays/annual leave, sick leave, and absences, you might notice a pattern if certain employees are absent on particular days. This could be an indication that an intervention or support from your HR team is needed.  

Like the NHS and healthcare sector generally, GP practices are under more stress than ever before. So, as an employer it’s important to do as much as you can to create a nice working environment for employees to help them feel like they want to come to work, even if it is a bit stressful. This might include making their surroundings as comfortable as possible and encouraging breaks away from their screens if applicable.  

Return to work interviews are an effective way to minimise fake sick days and address any issues or concerns the employee may have regarding work. If you can understand the root of the problem as to why they’re being absent from work, you can take the appropriate steps to support them.  

Reducing the risk of disability discrimination 

In some cases, frequent absences can suggest an underlying medical condition, which could lead to the employee identifying as disabled. There should be no discrimination towards a disabled employee and as an employer, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments as required.  

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd help? 

Seeking employment law advice for employers from Employment Law Services (ELS) Ltd can help you ensure you have legal compliant absence policies in place, as well as guidance for how to make reasonable adjustments for an employee if their absenteeism is the result of a medical condition. Through our services we can help with: 

  • Preventing expensive and damaging litigation 
  • Improving poor attendance and reduce sick leave 
  • Saving financial costs and resources for the practice by reducing sick leave 
  • Allow you and other management to focus their time and resources on patient services 


Hopefully, this guide has given you a greater insight into how to effectively manage absences in your GP practice. If you need support with employment law and HR, our employment law consultants for businesses can help. We provide tailored support that will ensure your GP practice is compliant with employment law and have the right systems in place to run your services efficiently for both you and your employees. Book a free consultation online today and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.