You MUST include desertion in your company's disciplinary code.
How do you go about doing this?
Follow this procedure when including desertion in your disciplinary code
Your disciplinary code must set out three distinct offences:
How you word the above offences in your disciplinary code will depend on your needs.
Typically AWOL isn't punished with dismissal for a first offence. Unless, of course, there's a compelling reason for your employee to be at work on that particular day or at a particular time and he doesn't have a reasonable or acceptable reason for being absent.
You must make the fact that your employee made no effort to contact you a separate offence, in addition to AWOL.
After all, your employee could contact you or make an effort to do so telephonically, or in one of the many readily accessible mechanisms technology provides, such as voice mail message, SMS, e-mail, fax and so on.
He could even send a message with a co-worker to let you know about his absence and reasons.
Desertion is NOT the same as AWOL
The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service says desertion must be a separate offence and you must specify a specific number of days, for example, four consecutive working days.
Make it very clear you'll presume desertion if he's absent for four days without notifying you of his whereabouts and the reason for his absence. Also let him know that he could be dismissed for continued absence.
Make it clear that you'll use his last known address on record to track him down, but if this isn't successful, you'll accept the continued unexplained absence as desertion and will dismiss him.
Just bear in mind that should he pitch up at work after this dismissal, you must give him a chance to explain the absence, and convince you it wasn't desertion. In this case, the duty to prove that rests on him.
The important thing here is you to include desertion in your disciplinary code. And you must stress to your employees that failure to notify you of unexpected absences from work, the reason and the expected time or date of return, can have very serious consequences.
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