Absent without Leave, or AWOL, is often used to describe a scenario in which an employee fails to report to work despite receiving previous approval for the time off. The employee has technically breached their contractual obligation to report for work, which is referred to as being an unauthorized absence in more formal legal terms.
This happens more often than people realize, especially in the early stages of an employment relationship. It may leave a worker with an unexpected absence and no information on where they are, how they are doing, or when or if they will return.
Unauthorized absences may, of course, occur for a variety of reasons. An employee can miss work on sick leave authorized by a doctor’s letter, or they might skip coming back from scheduled yearly leave. Alternately, they can just skip a scheduled day of work.
Whatever the cause, action should be taken to get in touch with the employee immediately. Employers shouldn’t assume that an absent employee has simply decided not to report to work. In other instances, a situation that precludes the employee from showing up and informing you of their absence may occur. However, you should make an effort to get in touch with them. If you know their emergency contact, you may also do that.
The following measures would depend on how long the individual had worked for you if it was still unable to contact them. Once an employee has worked for you for two years are protected against unfair dismissal. This is significant because there are occasions when an employer’s actions might be seen as a kind of dismissal, known as constructive dismissal.
Due to the lengthy duration of the unapproved absence, employers may find themselves in a situation where they are forced to contemplate terminating the employee.
Because there is often little danger of making an unfair dismissal claim when the service is less than two years, dismissal might be implemented quickly.
When a worker has two years or more of service, the employer should be extra cautious. Employers may believe they may consider the employee “self-dismissed” since they have not seen them at work or spoken to them. This is where the idea of “self-dismissal” comes into play. This is a hazardous course of action.
Self-dismissal is still a murky employment law topic despite being discussed in several tribunal judgments. Employers must ensure they have followed all reasonable means to contact the employee to determine whether they intend to quit, as is the case with other aspects of employment law. The employee must also be made aware of the potential consequences of their continuing absence from work, including the possibility that their job would be terminated.
Written correspondence should be sent by recorded delivery so that employers may verify if it was received and by whom. If letters are returned as undeliverable, it can be wise to attempt other communication methods, such as email and text, to get in touch with the employee. Make sure to attempt all these as contact information becomes available, if possible. All contact efforts should be documented to be used as proof if necessary.
Employers should only think about terminating employment after they believe they have made a reasonable effort to identify every contact method available to get in touch with the employee.