An employee is absent from work without notice. Have they abandoned employment? Or is it something else?

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Have you ever had a Ferris Bueller moment in your workplace?

Ahh most of us might recall that famous scene from the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. When Ferris’ economics teacher takes the class roll, Bueller is nowhere in sight.

So where is your Bueller? It might be your employee won last night’s lotto draw or got abducted by aliens – yeah right! Well, maybe winning the lotto – maybe.

But – it could be abandonment of employment when an employee:

  • is absent from work without notice
  • doesn’t have a satisfactory reason
  • doesn’t have authorisation.

Is it abandonment of employment – the first step

Here’s how to know if it’s abandonment of employment…

The first is an obvious one, give them a call or their next of kin. Try and find out where they are, why they haven’t called and if they are actually okay.

It might come to light that the employee was dealing with a personal matter. Like their partner being in labour, or hospitalisation following a serious car accident. We would all pretty much agree – these are satisfactory explanations for why the employee hadn’t contacted their manager.

Is it abandonment of employment – escalating the issue

But, if you’re still calling out “Bueller? Bueller?”, then your next step should be a formal one. Send a letter to employee:

  • inform them of the situation
  • request them to make contact within a certain timeframe
  • tell them who who to contact and by when
  • advise the employee that failure to respond may be interpreted as their abandonment of employment.

Helpful hint – Make sure you send the letter via registered post. This has its own tracking system so you will know the employee has received the letter.

Abandonment of employment – terminating the employee

If the employee does not contact you, then you can send a final letter, informing them that:

  • they have abandoned employment
  • they will receive their termination entitlements in accordance with the relevant industrial agreement or award, and/or employment contract.

What if the employee was ill or injured and didn’t get in contact?

But, before terminating employment, there are other legalities to consider where the employee:

  • has been absent on account of suspected or known personal illness or injury
  • hasn’t made contact or notified of personal illness or injury
  • hasn’t (yet) sent through a medical certificate covering the absence.

In this case:

  • The Fair Work Act, anti-discrimination laws and workplace safety laws are also relevant.
  • Some Awards and Enterprise Agreements also contain specific criteria of what is deemed abandonment of employment.

Checking to ensure compliance with these requirements before terminating the employee is important.

Do you have an employee issue where you think they have abandoned their employment? Or an employee with a long-term illness? Give us a call we would be happy to help.

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