How to handle unauthorised absence from work | Moorepay
November 20, 2022

How to handle unauthorised absence from work

Unauthorised absences

We explain what an unauthorised absence is and the steps you should take when an employee is absent from work and hasn’t contacted you.

When is an absence classified as unauthorised?

Unauthorised absence is also known as going AWOL (absence without leave). It occurs when an employee fails to attend work and doesn’t have a statutory or contractual right, or the employee’s permission to be absent. Essentially, if an employee fails to come to work without a good reason, it’s an unauthorised absence.

It’s key that you have a policy for unauthorised absence that’s included in your company handbook.

Also, try to make sure you have up to date emergency contact details for all your employees. We advise sending reminders out annually for employees to update their details on the HR database.

In addition, it’s important to remember there may be a reason for the unauthorised absence. So, before you go down the disciplinary route investigate this further.

An employee may be absent from work without contacting you because of:

  • An emergency
  • Illness
  • Unauthorised holiday
  • No reason – they have just decided not to contact their line manager
  • They have quit

Each of these scenarios requires a different approach However, it’s key to have a clear process when dealing with unauthorised absence.

Step-by-step guide to managing an employee who fails to attend work and doesn’t contact you

Here’s a brief step by step guide on what measures to take when you’re faced with an employee who fails to attend work and doesn’t contact you:

1.    Check your facts

Before you go any further, check the employee isn’t on annual leave. It’s worth checking whether they’ve spoken with someone else in the business to inform them they wouldn’t be in.

2.    Attempt to contact the employee in question

You should try and contact the employee by giving them a call.

3.    Attempt to speak to their emergency contact

If you can’t get in touch with the employee, wait for a while then call the person that the employee has given as an emergency contact.

4.    Send a letter of concern to the employee

If the previous attempts aren’t successful and you still haven’t had any contact from the employee, send a recorded letter to the employee’s home address. Express your concern regarding their absence, explain that it has been classified as unauthorised and ask them to contact you.

If you still haven’t had any response after 48 hours send another letter.

5.    Follow your disciplinary procedure

In the letters you’ve previously sent out, it should state that failing to respond to you may result in the company’s disciplinary procedures being carried out.  Failing any response from the employee, follow your company’s disciplinary procedure due to unauthorised absence.

In some cases, dismissal is the only option. However, make sure you have evidence to back up your dismissal decision. This should include logs of when you tried to call the employee, copies of letters with proof that you sent the letters recorded.  You must also make sure that you have fully investigated the situation before dismissing an employee and follow your disciplinary procedure.

The importance of a clear absence policy

Having a clear absence policy in place for all absences – not just those that might be contentious – will help employees recognise what is and isn’t acceptable.

To ensure your absence policy has an impact on your team, it’s essential to clearly communicate it to them – either through their contract, as part of their induction, in briefings, or in a company handbook.

The policy should be publicised to all staff members, as well as being enforced and seen to be enforced by every member of the team.

By monitoring time keeping and absence you can identify trends and potential underlying causes. Without this, you can’t make the decisions or actions you need to improve employee attendance. More and more employers are opting for HR software to give them this at-a-glance view of absence patterns among teams and individual staff.

Next steps

Moorepay customers who would like any specific advice on managing unauthorised absence should contact the Advice Line on 0345 073 0240.

You can also find out more about our HR Software here.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.