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Absent Employees Shouldn’t Be Out of Sight Out of Mind

Out of Sight Out of Mind?  

When an employee is absent from work it’s important not to forget about them. By being pro-active, particularly in certain cases, the situation can be managed more effectively.

Below we look at three areas where we tend to find that cases of  ‘out of sight out of mind’ can occur and what initial practical steps employers can take to start managing the situation.

1. AWOL Employees

When an employee is absent without leave and doesn’t make contact regarding their absence (‘AWOL’) it can be disruptive and frustrating for employers. Initially, most organisations quite rightly try to contact the ‘missing’ employee by all reasonable methods to attempt to find out what has happened and when the employee can be expected to return to work.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always lead to contact with the employee. So, what can an employer do if they find themselves in this situation?

  • The first step is to make sure a record has been kept of all the attempts at contact, this is so that there is evidence of the steps that have been taken
  • Generally, the next course of action is to write to the employee giving them seven days to get in touch and warning them that if they don’t, then they will be called to a disciplinary hearing/further action will be taken. The exact wording of the letter will be influenced by the employee’s length of service and their contract of employment.

If, after the initial letter, there is still no contact from the employee the way forward will depend on the circumstances of the case. For an employee who has two years’ service or more, it will usually involve addressing the issues via the disciplinary procedure. In some cases, this process can  ultimately involve holding a disciplinary hearing in the employee’s absence.

As going AWOL can lead to an employee’s dismissal it’s important to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to deal with the matter. If you have an AWOL employee in your organisation you should contact *Kingfisher for advice as soon as possible, irrespective of the employee’s length of service. We can provide guidance tailored to the specific circumstances of your case.


2.Verbal Resignations and Non-Attendance

If an employee verbally resigns from their position and ceases to attend work, it’s important to obtain a written resignation from them. Whilst a verbal resignation can be effective, it’s more difficult to evidence later that the employee did in fact resign and what their final date of employment was should this be necessary.

Obtaining a written resignation from an employee will usually involve writing to them to request confirmation of their intention to resign. Kingfisher can assist you with this and provide advice on the facts of your case. It’s particularly important for employers to seek advice if there is a concern regarding the employee’s reason for leaving, for example, if they have recently complained about being harassed or forced out of the organisation. If there is the possibility of an employee complaining to a tribunal about their treatment, it’s important the matter is handled sensitively and appropriately.


3. Employees on Long Term Sick Leave 

If an employee is away from work due to long term sickness it can be easy to overlook them as they will have been absent for a while. However, it’s important to manage long term sickness absence appropriately otherwise it can cause issues at a later stage.

The first task for an employer who has an employee on long term sick leave is to make sure they are familiar with their long-term sickness absence policy as this will usually set out the general framework to be followed. Whilst there is no legal definition of long-term sickness absence, as a rule of thumb it’s generally  considered to start when the employee has been absent for eight weeks or more.

Often, the first stage in managing a long-term sickness absence situation is to contact the employee to arrange a preliminary welfare meeting to explore the reasons for their absence and the prospects of their return.  Depending on the nature of the employee’s illness it may be appropriate to offer to meet at the employee’s home or an alternative location.

However, it’s important to seek advice before acting as each case will need to be managed appropriately with consideration given to the employee’s specific circumstances.

If you have an employment law issue you require assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher as we are happy to help.


* Kingfisher references Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd