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Cover your bases if an employee often goes AWOL

by , 18 January 2017
Cover your bases if an employee often goes AWOLSome employees do all they can to stay away from work - call in sick in the morning, go home early so they don't miss a doctor's appointment, not come in at all because it's their aunt's funeral (AGAIN!). That's all good and well if it's already been discussed with you beforehand or they bring you proof of their absence, like a sick note. But what do you do if your employee goes absent without leave and doesn't get in touch?

What do you do if an employee often stays away or is absent without leave (AWOL)?

If your employee is frequently absent without leave, it provokes you into 'wanting to get rid of the absent employee permanently so as to replace him or her with someone who will not be absent so often and who can, therefore, be relied on to be at work,' says Ivan Israelstam.
But the legislation is often vague and open to misinterpretation on employees who are frequently absent without leave.
That's why employers who fail to exercise caution in dealing with employees who disappear usually end up on the losing end at the CCMA.
That's why you need to cover your bases anytime an employee is absent without leave or authorisation, by sending him a letter stating that he must report for duty without delay.
He also needs to provide you with a reason for his absence when he returns to work, says the Labour Law for Managers.
But what if your employee simply disappears and doesn't get in touch with you again?
Labour Law for Managers says you can send the employee a suspension notice via registered mail and request that he either report to work to make representations in respect of the suspension or do so in writing by a specific date.
If you have proof that your employee has already received several warnings for repeated absenteeism, you can hold a disciplinary hearing in his absence and fire him, concludes Israelstam.
So remember to keep copies of any written warnings and all forms your employee submits as 'proof' of his reasons for being absent without leave in the past.

What can you do when you think your employee's gone AWOL?
John hasn't shown up for work all week! And you have no idea if he's ever coming back to work!
You've tried getting hold of him to no avail.
What can you do when you think your employee has absconded?
Don't be too quick to decide that John's absconded or deserted with the intention never to return.
You first need to make sure he's actually absconded and then you have to follow the right process to dismiss him if he has...
If you don't, he can take you to the CCMA… and he'll probably win too!

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