What to do when an employee doesn’t turn up

HR Dept logo HI-RESAnna Pepler of the HR Department discussses what businesses should do when an employee goes AWOL.

When an employee doesn’t turn up to work one day, the first assumption you’d make is that they are off sick and haven’t told you.

Frustrating as it is, making a rash decision and approaching the situation with ‘one strike and you’re out’ is probably not the best course of action.

Normal sickness absence policies state that if employees are unwell enough to come into work, they must call you as early as possible and must also keep in regular contact to update you.

If they don’t do this, it’s normally classified as unauthorised absence. In this situation, naturally you would make attempts to get in touch with the employee.

Concerned about welfare

Concerned about the employee’s welfare, you call the employee, get no answer and leave a message on their voicemail.

It’s a tricky situation; you want to ensure the employee is ok but you also have a business to run and the workload is piling up on other members of staff every day that the person is off.

So after a week of no contact from the ‘AWOL’ employee, what considerations should be paid?

– Are they ill?
– Have they had a car accident and can’t call because they are in hospital?
– Have they had a family bereavement?
– Have they resigned and got another job?
– Perhaps they are in prison?

All reasonable measures

The first step is to take all reasonable measures to contact them, so start by calling them.

Next, ask staff members if they have spoken to or know any information about the missing employee.

Then write to them and make clear that first and foremost you are concerned about their welfare.

Explain that unauthorised absence is considered misconduct and that an investigation will be conducted to determine if disciplinary action will be taken.

When absence is unauthorised, employees are not entitled to be paid. It’s a good idea to make this clear to employees in your company handbook.

Formal meeting

When writing letters, set deadlines. Make a statement such as ‘If we do not hear from you by [date], we may have to invite you to a formal meeting which may result in the termination of your employment’.

If the situation requires an investigation or a disciplinary, you must always invite the employee to the meeting.

After one attempt to hold a meeting, you can still hold a reconvened meeting if you do not hear from the employee.

No address

If you do not have their address, you will have their account number and sort code so you can write to the employee’s bank, asking the bank to forward the letter on.

By doing these things, you will have shown that you have made every effort to resolve the situation amicably.

Keeping records of every letter, email or noting details of every phone call will prove useful.

These types of evidence can be used in an employment tribunal should you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where a claim is brought against you.

For further advice and guidance on this or any other HR issues, contact The HR Dept for a practical and pragmatic approach to resolving ‘people problems’.

enewsletter