Abandonment of Employment 

Find out what you need to do if an employee has potentially abandoned their employment.

Has an employee not turned up to work for an extended period?  

It could be that: 

  • they have abandoned their employment OR, 
  • they intend to return work but have taken unauthorised leave. 

Be careful, as the reason for the absence will determine the process you follow. 

Check your employee’s employment agreement. This should have a clause on abandonment which specifies the number of days of unauthorised absence before action will be taken. Typically, this is three to five working days.  

What are your duties? 

When an employee has not turned up to work, you must make reasonable effort to contact them. This includes: 

  • calling all the contact numbers you have listed for the employee multiple times, including their emergency contact 
  • leaving messages on all contact numbers asking the employee to call you back 
  • visiting their home address. 

You must keep a record of all attempted contact and communication with your employee. This is to ensure that you have everything documented in case a dispute is raised in future. 

If you contact your employee and learn they have a genuine reason (for example, have been admitted to hospital) for their absence and intend to return to work, they cannot be dismissed. We recommend working with the employee to understand the reasons for the absence and reminding them of their obligation to let you know if they intend to be away from work. 

If the employee cannot let you know, they have a duty to ensure that someone contacts you on their behalf. 

If the reason for the absence is not justifiable, this becomes an issue of misconduct. A disciplinary process should be followed.  

Dismissal for abandonment

If the specified number of days set out in the employment agreement has passed and you have not been able to contact the employee, you need to follow these steps: 

  • Advise the employee that their employment is at risk. This should be done by phone or email and in writing in the form of a letter to their last known address.
  • If the employee gets in touch after a period of unexplained absence (within 3-5 days), you will need to invite them to attend a meeting to discuss their absence.
  • If you receive no response after sending a letter, then advise the employee by phone or email and in writing that their employment is now terminated by reason of abandonment.

We encourage you to get in touch as soon as possible if you have a potential abandonment of employment, so we can assist you through this process. Please call our Advice Service on 0800 472 472 (1800 128 086 from Australia) or email [email protected].  

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