22 May 2008 (updated: 09 February 2010)
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Q: What is meant by 'sporadic absence'? We are keen when taking on staff to make sure that we are clear in the contract of employment that missing days from work is not acceptable. We have left ourselves open to absenteeism in the past and this is very difficult to deal with and disruptive to our practice. Therefore, we are keen to write something into future employment contracts to clearly cover this issue.

A: Sporadic absence means there is a here-a-day, gone-a-day pattern. It is a good idea to include a specific clause about sporadic absence in employment contracts so that there is clarity about the situation from the outset.

The employer must devise a standard disciplinary procedure where if a staff member exceeds an established tolerable level of absence, this is dealt with in performance reviews and dissatisfaction is expressed. Warnings must be issued as appropriate and the staff member must be given an opportunity to improve the situation.

Medical certification may not be of much help if there is sporadic absence. The decision to dismiss would be based on the balance of 'convenience' - whether the recuperative needs of the employee are greater than the employer's requirements to have them at work. Sporadic absence is a grounds for dismissal as long as fair procedures have been observed.