How to manage unauthorised absence

How to manage unauthorised absence

31 August 2022

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What is unauthorised absence?

Unauthorised absence is when an employee fails to attend work without a valid reason or permission to be absent. It can also occur when an employee fails to follow the correct reporting procedures for absence. On occasion, it can happen when an employee reports their absence and the reason provided, isn’t believed to be genuine by the employer. Unauthorised absence is often referred to as an employee being AWOL and an employee doesn’t need to be absent for a full day for it to be classed as unauthorised. If an employee is late and doesn’t notify their employer, then the time between their contracted start time and when they actually arrive for work can be classed as unauthorised.

Why does unauthorised absence happen?

Unauthorised absence happens for lots of different reasons. Most of the time it tends to come under the traditional category of someone throwing a sickie but there can be other reasons such as:

  • Annual leave being requested and refused but the employee decides to take the day off anyway
  • Having no annual leave left but needing or wanting to take a day off
  • Travel problems or being unable to afford to get to work
  • Reluctance to attend work due to bullying, harassment or a disciplinary issue
  • An emergency situation occurs and the employee doesn’t have the time or capacity to follow the correct reporting procedure

What should I do if an employee is AWOL?

The first step should always be to try and make contact with the employee so that you can hold a conversation about why they aren’t at work. It might also be reasonable to try and get in touch with an emergency contact or next of kin particularly if it is out of character for the employee to not turn up. If no contact is made though then you should write to or email the employee and request that they get in touch by a set deadline. This may prompt a response and you can then meet with the employee to discuss the situation and decide on a course of action. This might include a disciplinary sanction or if no contact is made then you should continue to follow your AWOL procedure. This may result in dismissal if the employee fails to respond to your attempts to contact them.

Are employees paid for unauthorised absence?

This will largely be determined by company specific rules and policies around acceptable reasons for absence and what is in an employee’s contract. So make sure to always check first.

Can HRX help my business to deal with staff who are AWOL?

It sure can! HRX gives you a return to work form as part of its knowledge base. By having a robust absence management process, that includes return to work meetings, you are likely to dissuade staff from unauthorised absence as the majority will not want to lie when asked directly about their absence on their return. HRX also holds staff contact information which is there at your fingertips if someone doesn’t show up for work. No need for you to waste time digging in a filing cabinet for a number that they gave you 10 years ago and is likely to have changed. In addition, if you need to get in touch with their emergency contact, then their details are saved in the employee details section as well. The absence recording function in HRX allows you to record unauthorised absences as a separate category. This ensures you can keep accurate information and report on it to look for patterns of absence behaviour.

HRX therefore equips you with a number of tools to help you to deal with unauthorised absence and nip it in the bud before it starts to cause you and your business headaches. Find out more by taking HRX for a spin with our free 30 day trial.


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