Homeworkers and sickness absence

One survey suggests that the average homeworker takes 2.4 days off sick each year. By contrast, other research has found that a ‘typical employee’ takes 6.4 days off sick each year. This survey focused mainly on work-based employees.

Great news, right?

Not necessarily. The difference may be down to ‘presenteeism’. This is where an employee who is sick continues to work. Homeworkers who are surrounded by their creature comforts may be more inclined to do this.


An employee working at home tells you that they’re sick. What do you do? Just let them crack on? No.

What’s wrong?

Establish the nature of their illness and its impact. Ask whether, but for the current restrictions, they would come into work if they weren’t working from home. If the answer is no, then they may be too sick to work.
Sick means sick

Don’t automatically allow them to continue working at home. If an employee is incapacitated for work purposes, they should be deemed sick. Where they are working shouldn’t matter. If they keep working then they may get worse.

Maybe fit for work

Where an employee is unwell, it may be possible to alter their job so that they can continue to work safely. Consider reducing their hours and their workload.

This will depend on their circumstances and any medical advice they have been given. Each case is unique. There are also grey areas; an employee with a cold may not want to travel into work in the winter months but may be well enough to work from home.


Homeworkers who go off sick should follow your normal sickness absence reporting procedures and continue to update you about their prognosis and when they will be back to work. However, whilst off sick, the employee should not do any work.

Remember a homeworker can self-certify their sickness absence for the first seven days. For longer periods, they must produce a fit note from their GP.