Abandonment of Employment

What is the definition of “Abandonment of Employment”? 

When an employee is absent from work without a valid reason, for an unreasonable amount of time, and without notifying their employer, they are considered to have abandoned their employment. 

When is it appropriate to terminate employment on the basis of Abandonment of Employment?  

Employers may view Abandonment of Employment as a voluntary termination of employment by the employee. Although Abandonment of Employment may be reasonable grounds for dismissal, an employer may be at risk of an unfair dismissal claim if they fail to show that they made reasonable efforts to contact the employee. 

An employee may have a legitimate reason for not showing up for work or being out of contact with the employer. Therefore, the employer must try to get in touch with the employee to determine if they plan to return to work. It is even better if you can create a paper trail for this, including but not limited to times of calls as well as, screenshots of messages and emails.  

What steps should be taken before terminating Employment?  

First and foremost contact the employee! After contacting them, make sure you contact them again. It’s vital to make sure that you made multiple attempts to contact the employee over a period of time.

The employer should make an effort to contact the employee by phone and email to inquire about the employee’s well-being. If contacting the employee proves difficult, the employer can try reaching their emergency contact. If these attempts fail, a registered letter should be sent, declaring abandonment. This letter should grant the employee time to explain their absence and plans for returning to work.

If the first letter does not receive a response, send a second letter via registered mail. This letter should inform the employee that unless they respond by a specified date, factoring in any relevant notice period, the company will terminate their employment for abandonment.If there is no response to the second letter, the employer should make one final attempt to phone them. If they are unsuccessful here, then they may send a termination letter confirming the termination of employment due to abandonment, and pay out any accrued entitlements. 

What if the employee claims they have not abandoned their employment?  

If the employee confirms their continued employment, their absence shifts from abandonment to a potential disciplinary case. A performance meeting follows, where the employer may give a written warning or, for severe cases, terminate the employee due to unauthorised absence.

Exercise caution when there is a possibility that the employee may have abandoned their job.  Employers should be careful when making conclusions about employee abandonment, particularly if the employee has indicated that they plan to return to work. Employers should, at the very least, attempt to contact the employee. Depending on the circumstances, there are a number of actions that an employer can take if they suspect that an employee has resigned. The situation will dictate the best course of action.

Alternatively, if they believe the Employee needs assistance beyond what the Employer can offer, it would be beneficial to offer EAP.  

As always, when these types of matters arise, it’s best you get expert help. Let Now Actually work through a strategy with you. Book a complimentary meeting with us now, or email us at [email protected].

Book A Free Consultation