Absence without leave

What does absence without leave mean?

Such occasions can be disruptive to the business and action should always be taken. Generally, this would be dealt with informally in the first instance with a reminder of your absence reporting procedures. However, there may be occasions where this is not appropriate, either in cases of persistent unauthorised absence or where it is known that the employee is aware of business procedures. Such occasions are likely to be best dealt with under the disciplinary procedure.

Obligations upon employers:

  • Ensure that you have accurate contact details for your staff (contact phone number and home address).
  • Ensure that you have emergency contact details for your staff.
  • Ensure that all staff are clearly aware of the contact procedures during absence for the first day of absence and also what the rules are for subsequent days of absence.
  • Ensure that all staff have a note of the telephone number they should call when absent and a note of where any fit notes should be sent.
  • Possible reasons for absence

Examples of absence without leave

There are many reasons why an employee may be absent without making contact during absence. For example:

  • Going on holiday without prior authorisation or when they believe the holiday has been authorised.
  • Going missing.
  • Hospitalisation/confined to bed/being in an accident.
  • Suffering from severe mental health issues and not feeling up to speaking to anyone.
  • Being arrested/imprisoned.
  • Working for another employer.
  • Simply not following sickness reporting procedures.

Please note that owing to some of the above reasons, you cannot assume that someone has resigned from their position simply because there has been no contact from the person. It is understandable in certain situations why someone has not made contact.

Employer’s Approach:

Step 1 Make attempts to contact the employee (initially by telephone or – if this is not successful

then contact by letter). If contact is successful, then investigate why there has been a lack of contact and deal with accordingly. If you are not able to make contact, then perhaps try emergency contact details that have been provided to you by the employee.

Step 2 If Step 1 has been unsuccessful

then write to the employee asking them to make contact and attend an investigation meeting. State in the letter that unauthorised absence could lead to disciplinary action being taken.

Step 3 If Step 2 has been unsuccessful

and you have not heard from the employee and they failed to attend the investigation meeting, write to them again, requesting that they attend a disciplinary hearing. This letter should highlight to them that unauthorised absence could be regarded as gross misconduct.

Step 4 If Step 3 has been unsuccessful

and you have not heard from the employee and they failed to attend the disciplinary meeting, write to them again, requesting that they attend a rescheduled disciplinary hearing. Reiterate that unauthorised absence could be regarded as gross misconduct. This letter should also state that if they do not attend or make contact to explain why they can’t attend, then a decision will be made in the employee’s absence.

Step 5 If the employee fails to turn up to the meeting as detailed in Step 4

then the meeting should be held – and a decision made – in their absence

Step 6 Write to the employee, confirming they have been dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct.

  • Ensure that the dismissal letter gives the employee the right of appeal.
  • Ensure that any correspondence you are sending out to an employee is sent to the correct home address.
  • Ensure you have a record of the correspondence being sent (i.e. send 2 copies out – one sent 1st class post and one copy sent recorded delivery which requires a signature that can be tracked via the Post Office services online.

Note: The 6-step process should be followed in the event that no contact is made at all. If the employee makes contact, you need to give consideration to any mitigation the person puts forward as to the reason for their lack of contact.