13 Mar 2024

Do you have an AWOL employee?

It happens quite regularly for some employers. Sometimes this could be for 1-2 days and sometimes you may never see the employee again.

Contrary to popular opinion it is a risky approach to assume that the person has resigned if they don’t come into work or contact you.

Follow our tips below for managing this problem.

Our tips:

  • Start by making all reasonable efforts to contact the employee to ascertain their position – telephone, texts, email even hand delivering a letter to their home address if this is feasible. Send a copy in the post if all these attempts fail.
  • Ensure that you keep a record of all attempts to contact the employee.
  • Be aware that treating the employee's failure to report for work as a resignation is likely to be considered to be an express dismissal.
  • If the employee returns to work in the meantime, you should investigate the reason for the absence.
  • You may take disciplinary action where appropriate, following an investigation and fair procedure.
  • Where you are aware in advance that unauthorised absence is likely to result from a request for holiday that has been turned down, warn the employee of the possible consequences of disciplinary action if they go on holiday regardless.

What do we do if the employee does not respond to our effort to contact them and does not return to work?

Once you have given a reasonable opportunity for the employee to respond to your attempts to contact them, you will need to consider next steps.

A further letter should be sent inviting the employee to a disciplinary meeting to discuss their unauthorised absence from work.

Of course, it is highly likely that the employee will not attend the meeting or respond to the invitation if they have not responded to other attempts to contact them.

In this case the meeting should continue in the employee’s absence and a decision made on the future of their employment based upon the facts available.

This decision should be communicated to the employee in writing and usually the right of appeal should be given.

Of course there may be lots of different scenarios to consider. Get in touch if you need advice on this issue.