What does “Abandonment of Employment” mean?
An employee is considered to have abandoned their employment when there are absent from the workplace without a reasonable excuse, for an unreasonable period of time and without communication to the employer.
When can you terminate on the grounds of Abandonment of Employment?
Employers may consider that Abandonment of Employment constitutes an end of the employment contract at the Employees choice. Although abandonment of employment can be considered reasonable grounds for dismissal, the employer may be at risk of an unfair dismissal case if they did not take steps to show you have made reasonable attempts to contact the employee.
An employee may have a valid reason for not attending work and not being in contact with the employer. Therefore, the employer must make attempts to contact the employee to ascertain if the employee intends to return to work.
What steps should you take when considering termination of Employment?
- Contact the employee. The employer should attempt to contact the employee via phone and, if unsuccessful, email to check on the employee’s welfare.
- If you are unable to reach the employee by phone or email, attempt to contact the employee’s emergency contact.
- If you are unable to reach the employee via both of the above steps, 48 hours after the employee has failed to attend work you should move to send them a letter that you consider they have abandoned their employment. The letter should be sent via registered post and provide the employee with a reasonable timeframe to provide a response as to why they have not attended work, and what their intentions are regarding returning to work.
- If a response is not received from this letter a second letter should be sent via registered post that notifies the employee that if they do not respond by a set date that their employment will terminate due to abandonment on that date. The date should take into consideration any notice period applicable to their employment.
- If there is no response to the second letter the employer should confirm the termination of employment due to abandonment via a termination letter. The employer should also pay out any accrued entitlements at this time.
What if the employee responds that they have not abandoned their employment?
If during the above process, before termination is confirmed in Step 4, the employee responds to the employer that they have not abandoned their employment then the absence can be treated as a disciplinary matter rather than abandonment. A performance management meeting should be held with the employee, and, depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to issue a formal written warning, or (if sufficiently serious) termination of employment due to the unauthorised absence.
Exercise caution when there’s a chance that your job might be abandoned
Employers should be cautious when drawing conclusions about employee abandonment because it can be difficult and dangerous, especially if the employee gives any hint that they plan to come back. Employers should at the very least make an effort to get in touch with the employee. There are a number of actions an employer might do if it has cause to believe a worker has quit their job. The situation will determine the best course of action.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.