We get asked HR related questions every day and each week we will be sharing our top question of the week that we have been asked here at The HR Booth.In this week’s question of the week, Alistair explains what to do when an employee goes AWOL.


One of my employees failed to turn up for work on Boxing Day when they were due to work and failed to tell us. What can I do?


Unauthorised absence can be deemed fair grounds for dismissal, but first of all, try and establish the reason for the absence.  The reasons for the absence may make a big difference in terms of how you handle things.

Things you should consider are:

  • Are you aware of any personal problems, difficulties at home, or health problems?
  • Have there been any disagreements or disputes involving the employee in the workplace recently?
  • Does the absence coincide with dates that were refused for holiday or other leave?
You cannot assume that the employee has resigned and you should go through your disciplinary process.  Where the employee has less than 2 years service, and you have a provision not to follow this process providing there are no discriminatory issues at play, such as disability, pregnancy etc.
Not turning up for work and not having a good reason for being absent generally constitutes a breach of contract.  You are perfectly entitled to dismiss an employee on that basis, having first followed the correct procedure.  Before moving to disciplinary proceedings, you must attempt to contact the employee, via all available means.  Having received no response, you must then write to the employee inviting them to attend a disciplinary hearing, ensuring that you send the letter recorded delivery to verify whether or not it has been received.
If the employee responds and subsequently attends the disciplinary hearing, they will have a chance to explain the reasons for their absence and you can make a decision on the outcome of the proceedings.

If the employee does not respond, you should go ahead with the disciplinary hearing in their absence.  You must follow the same steps as though the employee were present.  Once you confirm dismissal, you should also ensure they have the right to appeal.

If you have any questions on this then please get in touch.

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