What Do You Do When Employees Fail To Return From Holidays?

How diligent are you at keeping employee records – in particular next-of-kin or emergency details and leave dates? As Australia comes to the end of its peak holiday season, some businesses are finding an employee or two have failed to return to work when expected. Now they are finding themselves in a very tricky situation.

By law, you cannot assume an employee has resigned simply because they fail to return to work. There are steps and processes you need to take to determine the cause. It all comes down to intention!

The Intention Is The Key

Abandonment of employment is considered reasonable grounds for dismissal. However, you need to prove that abandonment has occurred. To do this, you must speak with the absent employee. Failing that, you also have the option to speak with their nominated contact. If all else fails, you must email or write to them.

Again, this is why it’s important to keep up-to-date employee records so you have all of these contact details. 

Whatever the means of communication, your goal is to:

  1. Discover the reason for their absence
  2. Ask for a return to work date 
  3. Or confirmation they have decided to resign

If you are unable to speak to the employee or their nominated contact by phone, the written communication should:

  1. Cover the 3 points above
  2. Explain you will assume they have abandoned their employment if they do not explain their absence and return to work
  3. Give them a timeframe for responding

If you are sending a letter, it should be sent by registered post so you have proof it was posted and received by the absent employee. 

If the employee responds with a feeble reason for their absence, it will become a disciplinary matter. If there is no response and you have proof of receipt of the letter, you will probably be able to commence the termination process. 

But be warned, you need to check with the relevant Award or Workplace Agreement before actioning the termination otherwise you may find yourself in trouble!

3 Ways You Can Reduce The Impact Of A Missing Employee

Step 1:  Always be clear on staff leave dates and ensure proper leave requests are lodged and recorded. These records need to be recorded centrally (e.g. as part of the payroll function) and with the immediate line manager. It may sound obvious but some line managers are vague about downlines’ leave dates. As a result, an absent employee may not be detected for several days. Yes, it really happens!

Step 2:  If the employee fails to return to work on the due date, try to contact them that day. Don’t leave it until the end of the week hoping they will turn-up. That’s just avoiding the situation. 

Step 3:  Have processes in place for all staff to regularly review and update contact details for themselves and their nominated emergency or next-of-kin contact.

Delicate Situations Need Expert Advice

Determining the intention of employee absence is difficult and needs expert advice. There are processes required that will be influenced by Awards, Agreements and the particular situation.

If you have an employee who is missing in action after taking leave or simply doesn’t return to work one day, contact the experts at End2End on 02 8977 4002