Has the Employee Absconded
We all know that employee who fails to return to work after payday or a Shutdown or period of sick leave. Many clients contact me and ask whether, as an employee has been absent for 3 days or more without authorisation and without communicating, they can dismiss for absconding. Sadly, despite what is drafted in contracts or policies we cannot assume that this employee has absconded – he may be ill, or absent for circumstances beyond his control. You, the employee is required to establish as best you can that the employee has abandoned is job and has no intention to return to work.
The onus is on you, the employee to make all reasonable attempts to establish the whereabouts of the employee and instruct him to return to work.
How best to manage this:
Stop paying the employee – the rule of no work no pay applies. If the employee is intending to return to work he will normally contact you to query his pay.
Call the employee and ask him where he is and what his intentions are. If you reach a voice mail instruct the employee to return to work at a specific date and time. Note the date and time of the call and what was said.
Send an SMS with an instruction to return to work on a specific date and time.
Ask colleagues whether they know of the whereabouts of the employee. Note any comments.
Should you have no response from the above send a letter to the address on file. This letter will be an instruction to return to work on a specified date and time and advice that failure to do so will lead to disciplinary action. Keep proof of delivery whether this is registered mail, or signatures from the person and a witness who delivered the letter.
If the employee fails to attend on the date and time specified then you will be required to send a notice of disciplinary hearing – advising the employee that failing to attend will result in the hearing being held in his absence.
Finally, following a hearing, issue a letter of dismissal and advise the employee of his right to refer the matter to the CCMA
If your employee communicates with you or returns to work prior to you dismissing him then this absence is treated as unauthorised absence and not as absconding. You would address this through your normal disciplinary process.
Should that employee return after the dismissal you are required to give him an opportunity to be heard and give his reason for the extended absence. A valid and reasonable justification may lead to you revoking your decision to dismiss.