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If an employee has disappeared from your business, you may have little choice but to dismiss them for abandoning their employment. However, your business must be careful when doing so. Your business has legal obligations in this kind of situation and must act in good faith, giving the employee a reasonable chance to return to work. Since these situations are relatively uncommon, it can be a complex problem to navigate. This article sets out three mistakes to avoid when dismissing an absent employee, including:

  • failing to try to get in touch with the employee;
  • not letting them know that their employment is endangered; and 
  • failing to keep records of their communications. 

Failing to Try to Get in Touch

An absent employee is undoubtedly a challenging problem to resolve. However, the most common mistake made by businesses is not trying hard enough to get in touch with them before dismissing the employee. Your business should assume that the employee will return to work until it is reasonable to conclude that they will not do so. Part of the implication of this for your business is that you should make a significant effort to try to get in touch with the absent employee.

Of course, it is very frustrating if an employee does not show up to work and does not give any kind of explanation. However, remember, your business still has an obligation of good faith towards the employee.

Additionally, you should use all of the communication methods available to your business to try to reach the employee. This includes:

  • calling them on their contact number;
  • emailing them with the address you have; and 
  • seeing if anyone else knows where they are. 

If you do get in touch with the employee, ask for an explanation of their absence and whether they intend to return to work. If they plan to return to work, you cannot dismiss them for abandoning their employment. However, other kinds of disciplinary action may be available depending on the circumstances.

If you cannot get in touch with the employee despite repeated attempts, you can move on with the process of dismissing them for abandonment. Remember, it is crucial that your business has first made a genuine attempt to contact the employee. 

Not Telling the Employee That Their Job Is at Risk

Even in situations where an absent employee is not responsive to your communications and do not know why they are not coming to work, you must be careful before immediately dismissing them for abandoning their employment. Remember that you still need to act in good faith towards the employee. This obligation exists no matter their actions or lack of regard for not coming to work. If you consider dismissing the employee for abandoning their employment, you must include this in your communications to the employee. This is the case whether or not they are responding to your messages.

It is against your business’ obligation of good faith to dismiss an employee without warning them that they are putting their job at risk. Therefore, you should give an employee a final deadline for responding to your communications if they are failing to do so. Likewise, warn them that your business may dismiss them if they continue to be absent from work without a good reason. 

Not Keeping Records of Your Communications

Further, another common mistake is failing to document the issue with your absent employee. You should record all of the steps you take to try to contact them and messages of you asking for their return. In addition, you should keep notes of the different methods (emails, calls, asking coworkers) your business is making to ascertain where the employee is and why they are not at work. This helps protect your business if the employer later alleges that your business dismissed them without sufficient communications or warnings.

Key Takeaways

When an employee is absent from work without reason or an excuse for a significant period, your business may consider dismissing them for abandoning their employment. However, there are essential procedural and other steps to take first. These include:

  • trying to get in touch with the employee across different communications mediums; 
  • letting them know that their job is at risk; and 
  • keeping records of your communications. 

Avoiding these common mistakes is the key to navigating a tricky situation with an absent employee. For more information about managing an absent employee, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you do if an employee fails to turn up to work for multiple days?

As a first step, you should be trying as hard as you can to get in touch with the employee, including calling and emailing them. Remember, you cannot immediately dismiss an absent employee. Instead, you must take steps to ascertain why they are not coming to work and whether they will be coming back.

Do you need to tell the employee their job is at risk before dismissing them?

Yes, you do. You must give the employee written notice that you intend to dismiss them for abandoning their employment before doing so.

What kind of records should you keep if dismissing an absent employee?

You should be keeping track of when the employee did not turn up to work and the length of their absence. Likewise, record the steps and communications you have taken to try to get in touch with your employee. Also, keep the final letter you issued to the employee that details their dismissal.

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