When has an Employee abandoned their job?
Many Employers unfortunately make the mistake of thinking an Employee has abandoned their job simply because they did not turn up for a rostered shift, and then wrongly assume they can enforce their right to dismiss. Employers need to establish whether the Employee has any intention of returning to work and make every effort to contact the Employee.
As recent case law as highlighted, if an Employee intends on coming back to work, any unexplained/unapproved absence should be treated as a disciplinary matter, not abandonment, and an investigation should be immediately conducted upon their return. The investigation should give the Employee an opportunity to explain their absence before any conclusion is drawn and measures taken.
Before treating the position as being abandoned, the Employer must make every effort to locate the Employee and to ascertain the status of the employment relationship or whether the Employee intends on returning. Employers will need to try to:
- Phone the Employee;
- Phone friends/relatives of the Employee;
- Write to the Employee and preferably have the letter hand delivered by management or couriered or alternatively sent by registered post letters; and
- Email the Employee.
Employers will need to prove that they made every reasonable effort to communicate with their Employee during the abandonment period.
All of your employment agreements should contain a clause on abandonment of employment. However, even with a clause you are obliged to try to find out where the employee is and whether they intend coming back to work.