We all want our employees to enjoy their time off work, but what happens if an employee takes that one step too far and does not return to work on the allotted day?
Sometimes, it may be as a result of something that is outside their control, for example, their flights had been delayed, they have fallen sick or they are injured.
Other times, they may be malingering – employees who lie or exaggerate their illness or injury to avoid attending work.
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So what can employers do in these circumstances?
- Have clear rules
In your Employee Handbook, you should have rules on unauthorised absences and the consequences if an employee breaches the rules.
For example, you may state that those employees who deliberately fail to attend work without proper excuse or in breach of management instructions will be committing gross misconduct which could result in dismissal without notice or payment in lieu.
All your employees should have read and understood your Employee Handbook and have a copy that they can refer to. If you don’t have an Employee Handbook, get in touch with us to find out how we can draft one for you, tailored to your organisation’s needs.
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- Don’t jump to conclusions
If the employee hasn’t turned up to work and they do not contact you to inform you of their absence, you should try to contact them. If you have their emergency contact on file, you can also try contacting their spouse, civil partner or family member.
When you do get hold of them, don’t go on the attack and make assumptions. You should listen to the reasons given and the circumstances behind the absence.
- Carry out an investigation
Once the employee returns to the workplace, you will need to conduct an investigation into the matter. A good investigation is important because it allows an employer to consider the matter fully. Only once you have carried out this investigation and have credible evidence can you proceed to a disciplinary hearing.
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- Take action if appropriate
If it was something that was completely out of their control (i.e. their flight was cancelled) and they tried to contact you as soon as they could, you may decide that nothing more needs to be done.
However, if you do think their conduct merits disciplinary action, you need to carefully look at the individual case and think what is fair and reasonable when considering what the most suitable sanction is.
To explore this further, contact your EW Employment Law Adviser who can guide you.