Absence is an important factor affecting relationships at work. High levels of absence can cause serious problems for both large and small organisations.

Dealing effectively with absence calls for a continuous and coordinated effort by HR managers, line managers, including first-line supervisors, and worker representatives.

High absence can often be a symptom of workers' dissatisfaction with their jobs. Sound, fair and consistent policies and procedures can provide a framework within which absence problems can be better handled.

Publications - Advice on managing sickness absence

Self help guide - Preparing an absence notification and certification procedure


ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. ACAS provides up-to-date information, independent advice, training and works with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance.  It has approximately 730 staff based in 11 main regional centres throughout England, Scotland and Wales with a head office in London.


Access to Medical Report

An employer who wants an opinion from the employee's GP about the health of the employee must first ask for the employee's permission. A request by an employer for a report from a medical practitioner who is or has been responsible for the clinical care of the employee must be in line with the Access to Personal Files and Medical Reports (Northern Ireland) Order 1991.

Advice on managing sickness absence

Long-term ill-health letters and medical enquiry form to General Practitioner  - Sample Documents to download

Access to Work (NI)

Access to Work (NI) can help by providing advice and an assessment of your employee's disability needs in the workplace and, if appropriate, a financial grant towards the cost of necessary support.

For further information see below

Employees - nidirect

Employers - nibusinessinfo.co.uk

Accompaniment at Disciplinary and Grievance Hearings

All workers have a legal right to be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union official when they are required to attend certain disciplinary or grievance hearings.  The workers companion is allowed to address the hearing in order to put the workers case; sum up the workers case and respond on the workers behalf to any view that is expressed at the hearing.

LRA Code of Practice -

Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

Action Short of Dismissal

Action short of dismissal is used in an disciplinary context to describe a penalty which is imposed on an employee arising out a disciplinary hearing and is implemented as an alternative to dismissal, for example, suspension without pay or demotion. An employer must have the contractual right to impose such a penalty; otherwise it could be viewed as a Breach of Contract.  Action short of dismissal is also used to describe an unlawful detriment which is imposed on an employee (or worker) by an employer arising out of, for example, issues relating to trade union membership or activities.   

Adoption Leave

Who is entitled to adoption leave?

  • an adoptive parent of a child newly placed for adoption.
  • foster parents who are prospective adopters if they have been notified that a child is to be placed with them as part of a ‘fostering for adoption’ arrangement. (Spouses, civil partners and partners and prospective adopters in this situation may be entitled to paternity leave)
  • employees who are notified of being matched with a child for adoption. Adoption leave is a ‘day 1 right’ (i.e. employees will not need to have a qualifying service)
  • an employee who adopts a child from overseas.

The duration of the leave is 26 weeks' ordinary adoption leave followed by 26 weeks' additional adoption leave. (Note: Only one parent is entitled to the adoption leave).

From 5 April 2015, the entitlement to adoption leave and pay changed. If you qualified for 52 weeks of Statutory Adoption Leave you will also be:

  • able to take paid time off for up to five adoption appointments if you are the main adopter (the second adopter will be entitled to take unpaid time for two appointments)
  • entitled to 90 per cent of your normal earnings for the first six weeks of your Statutory Adoption Leave


Adoption rights in the workplace


Adoption leave and pay

Agency Worker

An Agency Worker is a worker who is supplied by either an Employment Business/Employment Agency to do work for another (the hirer) either under a contract of employment or other such contract as agreed between the Agency/Business and the Hirer.  

The Agency Workers Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 (S.R. 2011 No. 350) were made by the Department for Employment and Learning on 5 October 2011 and will came into operation on 5 December 2011. The Regulations can be downloaded via the following link – www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2011/350/contents/made

The Department for the Economy NI has also produced guidance designed to help agency workers, hirers of agency workers, and the recruitment sector to understand the Regulations. The guidance can be downloaded from the Department’s website via the following link –


See Worker, for details of employment rights.

See also Employment Agency/Business

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Health at work is no longer just about the traditional workplace hazards. There is also growing concern about the impact of alcohol, drugs and passive smoking on workers health.


Annualised Hours

Annualised Hours is a type of working pattern in which an employee is contracted to work a set number of hours over, for example, a year and the actual number of hours worked from week to week varies to meet organisational demands.  However, the employee will normally be paid the same weekly or monthly salary regardless of the hours worked in the previous pay period.

Antenatal Care

All pregnant employees are entitled to time off to keep appointments for antenatal care made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.

Antenatal care is not restricted to medical examinations. It could, for example, include relaxation classes and parentcraft classes as long as these are advised by a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.

The employer is entitled to ask for evidence of antenatal appointments, except in the case of the very first appointment. With the exception of this  first antenatal appointment, the employee must show her employer on request:

  • a certificate confirming that she is pregnant. This can be provided by a registered medical practitioner (e.g. a doctor), a registered midwife or a registered health visitor;
  • an appointment card or some other document showing that an appointment has been made.

The employee should be paid at her normal hourly rate of pay by her employer during the period of time off for antenatal care. This rate is calculated by dividing the amount of a week’s pay by the number of the employee’s normal working hours in a week. The normal working hours will usually be clear from the agreed terms and conditions of employment, or from the employee’s written statement of main employment particulars.


Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace


Maternity leave and pay

Appraisal Schemes

An appraisal scheme is a way of assessing an employee's performance against a set standard. Assessing performance is important because it helps employees to improve and identifies personal strengths and weaknesses. Appraisals are also widely used to link an employee's performance to pay.



A type of employment contract in which an apprentice is engaged to undertake a course of training and learning in order to practice a skilled trade or profession.  Generally the contract of apprenticeship will be for a fixed period of time and cannot usually be terminated unless on grounds of very serious misconduct.  Apprenticeships are available in a number of different areas, e.g. construction, engineering, hairdressing etc


Employers - https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/apprenticeships


Arbitration involves an independent and impartial person called an arbitrator (acting alone or chairing a panel) being appointed by the Labour Relations Agency to make a decision on a dispute. This decision is based on the evidence presented by the parties to that dispute.

Arbitration is entirely voluntary. All parties to the dispute must agree to go to arbitration. The parties should also agree in advance that they will abide by the arbitrator’s decision.

The booklet below explains the arbitration service available from the Agency.

Arbitration Explained

The Labour Relations Agency Arbitration Scheme

Under this Scheme claimants and respondents can choose to refer a claim to an arbitrator to decide instead of going to a tribunal hearing. The arbitrator's decision isbinding as a matter of lawand has thesame effectas a tribunal.

The booklets below explain the Labour Relations Agency Arbitration Scheme

The Labour Relations Agency Arbitration Scheme Explained

Labour Relations Agency Arbitration Scheme - Guide to the Scheme

Asserting Statutory Rights

Employees have a number of statutory employment rights; see Rights at Work for some examples. An employee is viewed as having asserted one of these rights when they have exercised their right to these entitlements, for example, an employee makes a request to their employer to be provided with an Itemised Pay Statement or to take annual leave. 

Associated employer

Employers are said to be associated when one company has control (directly or indirectly) over another or both companies are controlled by a third person.  An employee’s service with an associated employer should generally be taken into consideration when computing their total length of continuous employment.


Continuous employment


Continuous employment


Auto Enrolment

Employers must automatically enrol certain members of their workforce into a pension scheme and will need to make a contribution towards it.

The law came into force for large employers on 1st October 2012 with small and medium-sized businesses following in stages from spring next year.

Even if an employer already offers pension arrangements for their workers, they still have some new obligations to meet.

The main things that an employer must do are:

  • provide a qualifying scheme for workers
  • automatically enrol all eligible jobholders onto the scheme
  • pay employer contribution for eligible jobholders to the scheme
  • tell all eligible jobholders that they have been automatically enrolled and that they have the right to opt out if they want to do so
  • register with the Pension Regulator and give them details of the qualifying scheme and the number of people that have automatically enrolled.

Go to the Pensions Regulator website for more detailed information.

For Employers click here. For general information click here.

Automatically Unfair Dismissal

It is automatically unfair to dismiss or select an employee for redundancy on the grounds of their gender, race/nationality, religious belief or political opinion, marital status, age, disability, pregnancy, gender reassignment or for membership or non-membership of a trade union.  It is also deemed automatically unfair to dismiss an employee for asserting a statutory employment right.  An employee who is dismissed in any of these situations does not generally require the normal one year’s service requirement to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

Unfair dismissal

Telephone Enquiry Point

The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

028 9032 1442

Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

Contact Us

Please note that we cannot deal with employment-related enquiries by e-mail. To receive information or advice about an employment-related issue, please telephone our Helpline on Belfast 90 321442 where an officer will speak with you directly about your query. Please note that the Agency can arrange the services of an interpreter if required.

If you have an employment relations issue in Great Britain please contact the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100 .

For all non-employment related queries or questions please fill in the box below.