A practice owner writes:
I have a relatively new team member who called in sick last Monday. He called before his shift was due to commence, and just said that he wasn’t feeling well and would go to the doctor that day. He didn’t say anything about not coming in for the remainder of the week, and I didn’t ask. I just assumed he’d be in the next day, or would call me with an update if he were still unwell.
On Tuesday, he didn’t show up for his shift. I called him, and he said he didn’t think he was scheduled to work that day, but will come in within the hour. He never showed up and didn’t answer his phone.
Wednesday came around, and he was still nowhere to be seen! Do I assume he’s not coming back?
It certainly sounds suspicious, but it’s important not to assume anything.
When an employee is absent from work without notifying the employer, it’s commonly referred to a “no call, no show.” Related to this is “job abandonment,” which occurs when an employee has no intention of returning to work but fails to notify the employer.
A no call, no show doesn’t always mean job abandonment, so it’s important to distinguish between the two and follow due process. Before you assume he’s not coming back and terminate his employment, follow these steps.
Try to Get in Touch With the Employee Again
Does he have an emergency contact listed in his employment documentation? He may have been in an accident or had some other medical emergency. In this case, a no call, no show may not have been preventable. Upon returning to work, he is required to present satisfactory documentation of the incident, which may qualify him to take unpaid time off.
If you are unable to contact the employee via phone, post him a letter via registered post, which he must sign for upon delivery. In the letter, you should state the dates of his absence and details of previous attempts to contact him. Explain that you are concerned and it is imperative that he contacts you immediately. Finally, outline what the consequences of not contacting you are.
Refer to Your Attendance Policy
Here’s why you need a policy, even though you might think it would ever be used! What does your practice’s attendance policy say about no call, no shows and most importantly, what does it say about the consequences? If the employee has received your attendance policy and signed that they have read and understood it, you need to ensure whatever action you take is in line with the policy.
In the letter you send the employee, refer to your attendance policy.
Is this Job Abandonment?
In the US, no federal or state laws specify the number of days. However, case law establishes three days as reasonable. In Australia, the Fair Work Act doesn’t deal with abandonment of employment, and of 120-plus awards, only 5 specify the period of time, which in some cases is also 3 days.
The important thing is not to jump to the conclusion that a no call, no show is indication that the employee has abandoned their position. Follow due process, making every attempt to contact the employee, having clear policies that the employee has signed off on during their induction period and ensuring the employee has been made aware of the consequences of breaching the attendance policy.
Termination of Employment
OK, so you’ve gone through the process, it’s now been two weeks and still no word from the employee. It may be time to terminate his employment. But how do you do that when you can’t get in touch with him?
Send another letter via registered post. In the letter, refer to your first letter and that as per your policy and the previous letter, since you have not heard back from him by such and such date, you are terminating his employment.
Ensure you follow your regular termination procedures, such as paying out any money owing to the employee.
Want to submit a HR question of your own? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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