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When Your Employee Doesn’t Show Up For Work

Most employers will tolerate an employee showing up late for work once in a while.

We’ve all had a bus arrive late, found ourselves stuck in bad traffic, or had a sick child that needed urgent care.

In those cases, you’d expect your employee to get in touch, to let you know they’ll be late.

But what if the employee doesn’t show up at all and doesn’t bother to get in touch to tell you why?

Can you dismiss them if they do a no-show for no clear reason?

TRY TO CONTACT THEM FIRST

You can’t jump to conclusions. There may be a good reason why they have not shown up to work and not contacted you.

They may be seriously ill and unable to make contact. Or maybe they’re distracted by a sudden emergency.

As an employer, you’re obliged to act fairly and reasonably towards your employees. That means suspending your judgment until you know more.

The duty of good faith also obliges you to strive to maintain good communication with your staff.

So if an employee fails to turn up, you need to try and get in touch with them. You can’t sit back and dismiss the employee for not getting in touch without doing more. Employment relationships are a two-way street. For your part, that means attempting to get a hold of the employee to find out why they have not turned up.

As an aside, this is one good reason why it’s important to keep your employees’ contact details up to date. You’ll want to try every means you have available to get in touch with them if they are a no-show.

It’s also helpful to have next-of-kin contact details recorded, so you can try contacting someone close to them.

That’s the sort of information you might collect when your employee first starts working with you. Keep this information current by checking it with your staff, say annually.

RELY ON ABANDONMENT CLAUSE, IF YOU HAVE ONE

So you’ve made every effort to contact your employee and they have not responded. What do you do now?

A good employment agreement should include an abandonment clause. That type of clause gives you the ability to dismiss a no-show employee if you can’t get in touch. You may want to rely on this clause in those circumstances.

Here’s an example abandonment clause:

In the event the Employee has been absent from work for three consecutive working days without the Employer’s consent, and the Employer has made reasonable efforts to contact the Employee, the Employee’s employment will automatically terminate at the end of the third day of absence without the need for notice of termination to be given.

This clause allows you to treat the employment relationship as having ended on three conditions.

  • First, the employee must be absent for three consecutive working days.
  • Second, their absence must be without your consent.
  • Third, you have made all reasonable efforts to get in touch with them, to no avail.

If those conditions are satisfied, you don’t have to give notice to end the employment according to the above wording. The employment ends automatically at the expiry of that three-working-days period.

Having said that, it may still be fair to let the employee know you may rely on this clause when you attempt to contact them. It’s also best practice to write to them and let them know the employment has ended according to this clause.

WHAT IF THE EMPLOYEE GETS IN TOUCH?

The abandonment clause assumes that the employee will not get in touch with you. But what if they do get in touch before the three-day deadline expires?

Just because they finally made contact does not mean they are out of the woods. You’ll need to hear them out and weigh up their explanations for not getting in touch.

You may want to start a disciplinary process to address their unauthorised absence. As part of that process you will ask them to explain their absence. If you aren’t satisfied by their explanation, it could be fair to issue a warning or even dismiss.

Remember, a good employer ensures a fair process and has reasonable grounds for reaching any decision. For more on what that process looks like, see this guide on my website.

CONCLUSION

You don’t have to put up with an employee who fails to turn up to work without letting you know.

If you can’t reach them, you may be able to rely on an abandonment clause to terminate their employment.

Otherwise, a disciplinary process may be the next step. As part of the process you’ll have to weigh up whether you thought they had good reasons for not getting in touch.

Have you experienced problems with absentee employees? How did that play out?