Investigate the matter before you discipline the employee
You can't just discipline Joe for taking the day off until you investigate his excuse. But you can't just accept his excuse either. What if he's lying? Then he's had the day off at your expense.
This is why it's important you do some investigating. Firstly, ask Joe questions like:
• Where did the car break down?
• What time was it?
• What did you do about the breakdown?
• Why was public transport not available?
• Why didn't you contact the company immediately when you realised you wouldn't be able to get to work?
In addition to the above, it's important you also:
• Check that the incident really occurred
• Check that the incident was so serious that it prevented Joe from coming to work for the whole day
Decide if the employee can be held responsible for the supposed transport issue
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How to pick up that your employee might be lying
If Joe can't provide you with details such as contact details of the mechanic who fixed his car or the towing company that towed it away, see this as a red flag. In this case, it's essential you start investigating.
For example, check to see if there really was no public transport from Joe's area on Monday.
On the other hand, if Joe does provide you with contact details for people involved, give them a ring to verify what's he told you is true.
What to do if you catch the employee lying
If you find out that Joe was in fact lying about there being no public transport on Monday, confront him about it and perhaps he'll admit to lying about his car breaking down.
In this case, you're entitled to give him a final written warning. Once you've done that, I doubt he'll ever be absent without leave again!
What if he isn't lying? You can give him paid/unpaid leave