Is it acceptable to issue a formal warning to an employee whose level of attendance is unsatisfactory, even where there are genuine reasons for the various absences?

Yes, an employer can issue a warning in line with its attendance policy, even where there are genuine reasons for the absences, such as certified illness or injury. The employer should make clear that the warning is for unsatisfactory attendance, and not, for example, for ill health or personal problems. A warning will be necessary to advise the employee that his or her level of attendance falls short of what is required, and could eventually lead to further action or even termination of employment.

Where the absence is related to the employee's disability, before issuing a formal warning, the employer should consider its duty to make reasonable adjustments, which could include adjusting the triggers under its attendance policy, and should ensure that its response to the absence is proportionate in the circumstances. Employers should also beware of the risk of discriminating against an employee by issuing a warning where her absence was pregnancy related.