Employee Called in Sick but Seen Out

The Dilemma for Employers

Imagine this scenario: Your employee called in sick but was later spotted enjoying their day out. It’s a situation that can leave employers scratching their heads and questioning trustworthiness. How should a prudent business owner respond to employee called in sick but seen out?

Dealing with the issue of an ’employee called in sick but seen out’ isn’t just about immediate reactions. It encompasses understanding employment rights, being fair and maintaining the delicate balance of trust in the workplace. In this article, I’ll shed light on some critical insights you must know.

The Dilemma Unravelled

At the outset, it’s easy to jump to conclusions. But it’s vital to keep a few aspects in mind:

  • Illness manifests differently in everyone.
  • Some conditions allow mobility but not work readiness.
  • What you witness might not reflect the whole story.
  • Every employee deserves respect for their privacy and rights.

Legal Rights Surrounding Sick Leave

employee called in sick but seen out

Employment law in the UK firmly upholds the rights of workers. An employee might be off sick from work but is not necessarily confined to their home. It’s essential to differentiate between incapacity to perform job tasks and general incapacitation.

Maintaining Trust in the Workplace

When confronted with an ’employee called in sick but seen out’ scenario, immediate suspicion can damage workplace trust. However, ignoring it isn’t the solution either. Striking the right balance between trust and accountability is the key. Ensure that your actions stem from a place of understanding and compassion.

By understanding the legal and ethical boundaries, you can navigate the complexities of such situations with ease and professionalism.

UK Employment Law: Sick Leave and Personal Rights

One of the most compelling challenges I’ve witnessed employers face is understanding the delicate dance between sick leave and personal rights. When an “employee called in sick but seen out” becomes a topic of discussion, it’s imperative to first grasp the legalities before jumping to conclusions.

Understanding the Rights of Sick Leave

The UK’s employment law is clear: employees have the right to take sick leave when they aren’t fit to work. This ensures their well-being and prevents any potential spread of illness in the workplace. But what does ‘not fit to work’ truly mean? Contrary to common misconceptions, it doesn’t necessarily mean being bedridden. It’s entirely possible for an individual to be unwell for work but well enough for other activities. For instance, someone with severe migraines might not be in a position to focus on a computer screen but can attend a quiet gathering.

The Myth: Confinement to Home

It’s a widespread belief that taking sick leave translates to being confined to one’s home. This notion is far from the truth. UK employment law doesn’t dictate that a sick employee must remain at home. A person could be unfit for professional tasks but still capable of short outings. It’s essential to discern the difference between being incapacitated for work tasks and being entirely incapacitated. Recognising this distinction ensures fair treatment and avoids potential misunderstandings.

Differentiating Incapacity

It’s crucial to remember that every illness has its own unique manifestation. A person with a back injury might not be suited for heavy lifting but could still walk in a park. Similarly, someone with a mental health issue might need a day off from the stressors of work but benefit from a change of scenery. In the realm of UK employment law, there’s no one-size-fits-all. The key lies in understanding and accommodating the varied nuances of health issues.


Being equipped with knowledge empowers employers to make informed decisions. When faced with situations where an employee called in sick but seen out, it’s not about scepticism but understanding. Understanding UK employment law ensures you react not from a place of doubt, but from clarity and fairness. As you consider the complexities of such situations, always remember the importance of trust, compassion and legal awareness.

Investigating Employee Called in Sick but Seen Out: What Employers Can and Cannot Do

It’s a predicament many employers face: an employee called in sick but seen out. While initial reactions might verge on confusion or even frustration, it’s essential to approach the matter with both legality and fairness at the forefront of one’s mind.

Approaching the Employee

The initial step in these situations is communication. Before drawing conclusions, speaking directly with the employee is paramount. Here are a few considerations:

  • Ensure the conversation is private and non-confrontational.
  • Ask open-ended questions to understand their perspective.
  • Stay away from accusatory tones; instead, focus on clarity.
  • Document the discussion for future reference.

The Legalities of Surveillance

In today’s digital age, the temptation might arise to use surveillance as a method to monitor employee activity. However you must tread carefully here. UK employment law safeguards an individual’s privacy rights. Employers must be wary of:

  • Intruding on an employee’s personal space without consent.
  • Recording conversations or activities without explicit permission.
  • Violating GDPR regulations when handling personal data.
  • Basing disciplinary actions solely on uncorroborated evidence.

Following Formal Disciplinary Processes

If you feel the need to take further action, remember that UK employment law has set disciplinary processes in place. These procedures are there to protect both employers and employees from unfair practices. Rushed decisions, devoid of evidence and proper protocol, can lead to significant legal complications for businesses. It’s always wise to ensure that any action aligns with official guidelines and is backed by solid evidence.


Investigating the matter of an ’employee called in sick but seen out’ is not merely about proving right or wrong. It’s about maintaining a healthy workplace culture, ensuring fairness, and staying within the legal framework. As employers, being well-versed in the correct protocols and legalities helps navigate these sensitive situations, fostering trust and open communication in the workplace. See also Employee not engaging when off sick.

Potential Misconceptions About Sick Leave

When an “employee called in sick but seen out” becomes a talking point, various misconceptions about sick leave often come to the forefront. These misunderstandings can lead to premature judgments and potentially strain the relationship between employers and employees. By shedding light on these misconceptions, we can foster a more understanding and empathetic workplace environment.

Being Ill Doesn’t Mean Being Bedridden

One common misconception is equating sickness with being completely incapacitated. The truth is, illnesses manifest in myriad ways. An individual might be grappling with a mental health concern, rendering them unfit for the pressures of work, but might benefit from outdoor activities or social interactions. Similarly, someone might have an ailment that prevents them from staring at a computer screen but doesn’t hinder a stroll in the park. It’s essential to grasp that being unwell for work isn’t synonymous with being unfit for all activities.

Appearances Can Be Deceptive

At first glance, witnessing an employee who’s called in sick engaging in other activities can be jarring. However, appearances can often be deceptive. For instance, an employee might be on medication that prohibits them from operating machinery at work but allows other general activities. Or, a simple change of environment might be a recommended therapeutic action for certain conditions. Jumping to conclusions based solely on appearances can lead to misunderstandings and potentially unjust actions.

Every Illness Has Its Nuance

We must acknowledge the vast spectrum of illnesses and their varying impacts on individuals. While a flu might confine someone to bed, chronic pain might merely limit certain types of physical activity. Mental health conditions, too, have their unique set of challenges. An employee could be undergoing therapy, where stepping outside and engaging in mild activities is a part of their healing process. Therefore, understanding the nuanced nature of illnesses helps employers approach situations with greater empathy and clarity.


At the heart of addressing the ’employee called in sick but seen out’ dilemma lies understanding and compassion. By dispelling common misconceptions about sick leave, employers can cultivate a workplace environment based on trust, transparency, and mutual respect.  It’s crucial to approach each situation with an informed perspective, ensuring fairness and empathy remain at the core of our decisions.

Addressing the Issue Constructively: Best Practices

When encountering a scenario where an employee called in sick but seen out, knee-jerk reactions can do more harm than good. It’s crucial for employers to address the matter constructively, ensuring that fairness, trust, and understanding form the foundation of their approach.

Open Dialogue is Key

Before taking any measures, initiate a dialogue with the employee in question. A face-to-face meeting, conducted privately and without any preconceived notions, can shed light on the situation. It provides an opportunity for the employee to share their side of the story, and it allows employers to express their concerns. Open dialogue bridges the gap between misunderstanding and clarity, ensuring that decisions are informed by both perspectives.

Being Informed: Know the Law

Some key points to remember include:

  • An employee’s right to sick leave is protected, and they’re not obligated to remain confined to their homes during this period.
  • Before any disciplinary action, ensure you have concrete evidence and not just hearsay or observations.
  • Always adhere to formal disciplinary processes, prioritizing fairness and due process.
  • Maintain a clear sickness absence policy and ensure all employees are aware of it.

Empathy Over Assumptions

It’s easy to form assumptions, but they can cloud judgment. Taking a moment to place oneself in the employee’s shoes can offer invaluable insights. Perhaps they’re dealing with a condition that benefits from fresh air or a change of surroundings. Maybe there’s an element to their illness you’re unaware of. Empathy not only fosters understanding but strengthens the bond of trust between employers and employees.


Addressing the issue of an ’employee called in sick but seen out’ doesn’t demand a detective’s mindset. Instead, it calls for understanding, open communication, and a deep-rooted knowledge of employment laws and rights. By adopting a constructive approach, employers can navigate such situations with grace, ensuring that the workplace remains a haven of trust, fairness, and mutual respect.

Preventive Measures: Crafting a Clear Sickness Absence Policy

The adage, ‘prevention is better than cure’, rings especially true in the context of workplace dilemmas. An ’employee called in sick but seen out’ situation can be circumvented or addressed more effectively with a well-drafted sickness absence policy. Having clear guidelines not only streamlines processes but also sets clear expectations for both employers and employees.

Define the Terms Clearly

At the foundation of any sickness absence policy should be clear definitions. What constitutes sick leave? Are there different categories, such as short-term and long-term? By setting clear terms, ambiguity is reduced, and there’s less room for misinterpretation. This clarity ensures that both parties are on the same page, eliminating potential grounds for disputes.

Documentation is Essential

While trust plays an integral role in the employer-employee relationship, the importance of documentation cannot be understated. A robust sickness absence policy should lay out the documentation requirements. This could range from medical certificates to self-certification forms. Having a paper trail not only offers a reference point in case of disagreements but also ensures that employees are aware of their responsibilities when taking sick leave.

Open Channels of Communication

Encouraging open communication is pivotal. If employees feel comfortable discussing their health concerns and reasons for absence without fear of retribution, many potential misunderstandings can be avoided. An effective sickness absence policy should emphasize the value of communication, outlining the appropriate channels through which concerns, updates, or queries can be relayed. This fosters a culture of transparency and mutual respect.

Regularly Review and Update

As with all policies, a sickness absence policy is not a static document. It needs to evolve based on changing circumstances, laws, and workplace dynamics. Regular reviews ensure that the policy remains relevant and effective. This proactive approach not only keeps the policy aligned with the latest legal requirements but also ensures that any gaps or inefficiencies are promptly addressed.


A well-constructed sickness absence policy offers a roadmap for both employers and employees, ensuring clarity, fairness, and understanding. When faced with situations where an ’employee called in sick but seen out’, having a comprehensive policy in place provides a framework to navigate the issue with confidence and fairness.

Call John Bloor at EBS Law on 01625 87 4400 if you are an employer and need free Employment Law Advice.