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Absenteeism 101: Follow this procedure to deal with an employee who's gone AWOL

by , 14 November 2013
You trust that your employees will be at work, unless they're ill, have suffered some accident or tragedy that's prevented them from being at work, or have taken leave. But sometimes, an employee will go out for lunch, and days later, you're still wondering what happened to him... You try to call, SMS and email him. You call his family, his friends, and you ask his colleagues to help you track him down. But still, you have no idea where he is, or why he hasn't explained why he's not at work. Here's how to handle absenteeism...

Absenteeism (and desertion) are not easy to deal with. But the experts at the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf explain what you should do, and what action you can take if your employee goes missing...
Start by trying to reach your absent employee by whatever means possible
If your employee is absent for a period of days without any communication, you must attempt to contact him. You can do this via telephone, sms and email or send a registered letter to his last known address. The communication must request that he contact his manager by a certain date to indicate his whereabouts and when he'll return to work.
If the employee doesn't respond, send a second communication. Notify him that you'll take disciplinary steps against him that may result in dismissal.
If he doesn't respond, you can view his conduct as desertion. Because, in a sense, he's indicated that he no longer wishes to be bound by the employment contract. You must still notify him to attend a disciplinary enquiry and advise him of the allegations against him. In the event that he doesn't attend the disciplinary enquiry, you can conduct it in his absence.
Your employee could change his place of residence without notifying you. You could find this out from a third party, but not have any evidence and can't be sure you have the correct information. If this happens you're only required to send the correspondence to the employee's domiciliumetexecutandi (address that he gave you as the one where he stays) and not to try to track him down.  It's your employee's obligation to update his personal records.   
Keep clear records of your attempts to contact the absent employee, and also the outcomes of the disciplinary enquiry
You must notify the absent employee about the outcome of the disciplinary enquiry.Keep detailed records of any attempts you make to contact the absent employee. You can use the records as evidence that you made an effort to inform the employee you intended taking action against him, should the need arise.
If your employee unexpectedly returns to work after the termination, you can allow him to give you an explanation for his absence. If he doesn't give you a satisfactory explanation then the dismissal will stand. If his explanation is a good one, you can treat this as an appeal against the dismissal and reverse the decision.
Follow this process for conducting a disciplinary enquiry into absenteeism:
1.       Draft a charge sheet that sets out the allegations against the employee. You must give him a copy of the charge sheet. Hand it to him before the disciplinary enquiry is due to start so he has time to prepare.  Two working days' notice is a good rule of thumb.
2.       Make sure you conduct the disciplinary enquiry in accordance with your company policies and procedures.
3.       The Chairperson's findings from the disciplinary enquiry must be in writing and the employee is entitled to a copy.

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