Managing An Unauthorised Absence From Work 

An office with an unoccupied desk, indicating an unauthorised absence from work.

Employees taking unauthorised absences from work is a concern that plagues all businesses.

Often, these unexpected absences can be addressed without much ado. They’re either one-offs or come with a justified reason. However, there are times when they hint at a larger issue, necessitating a structured response.

In this post, we’ll explore deeper into managing such absences. Allowing you to understand their root causes, and the steps you should consider when confronting this challenge.

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What is an Unauthorised Absence From Work?

An unauthorised absence from work refers to instances where an employee doesn’t show up for work without prior approval or a valid reason. These absences can range from being late without notice to extended, unexplained periods of absence. 

It is critical to establish a clear distinction between unauthorised and declared absences. For example: planned holidays, approved sick leave, parental leave or other pre-disclosed reasons should never be treated as an unauthorised absence from work. 

Why Employees Might Have Unauthorised Absences

To be able to manage employee absences, it’s important to have an understanding of why your employees may be missing from work. 

Yes, there is a possibility your employee could be pulling a “sickie” or can’t be bothered to come into work. However, unauthorised absences can sometimes have a deeper cause which requires your support.

Personal Emergencies 

Unforeseen personal crises, such as family emergencies or sudden health issues, can lead to unauthorised absences when employees are unable to notify their employers in advance. In these situations, it is important you have a compassionate approach and offer your full support.

Lack of Understanding or Clarity About Leave Policies 

Employees may not be fully aware of or may misunderstand the company’s leave policies, leading to unintentional unauthorised absences. Ensuring clear communication of policies and accessible resources can help mitigate this issue.

Avoidance Behaviour or Workplace Anxiety 

In some cases, employees may resort to unauthorised absences as a coping mechanism for workplace stress or anxiety. Creating a supportive and inclusive work environment is essential in addressing this root cause and promoting employee well-being.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Unauthorised absences can also stem from unforeseen circumstances such as transportation issues, accidents, or family emergencies that arise suddenly. Having mechanisms in place to handle these situations with understanding and flexibility is crucial.

Managing Unauthorised Absence in 4 Steps 

1. Your Sickness Policy 

The first step in managing unauthorised absences effectively is to have a clearly defined sickness policy in place that is available to all employees. This policy should explicitly outline how and when absences should be reported, as well as any consequences of unauthorised absences. 

Additionally, your policy should state that unauthorised absences are a form of misconduct, which may warrant further investigation or disciplinary action.

2. Contact The Absent Employee

As an employer, you have a duty of care for each of your employees. When it’s clear an employee isn’t turning up for work, you should initiate contact with them as soon as possible to understand their reason for absence. This conversation must be approached with compassion and empathy, as there is a possibility their absence may be due to a personal emergency of sorts.

Keeping all communication in writing is crucial, as it serves as a documented record of your attempts to address the situation. If your attempts at contact are consistently ignored by the employee, consider sending a written warning, clearly stating that further actions will be taken if they do not respond within a specified timeframe.

3. Meet With The Employee 

Upon the employee’s return to work, it is important to schedule a meeting to discuss the unauthorised absence. If the employee has provided a valid reason that you deem genuine, reassure them that no disciplinary action will be taken. However, emphasise the importance of timely communication and offer support to prevent future unauthorised absences. In most cases, this meeting should serve as an opportunity to create a constructive dialogue and find solutions.

4. Disciplinary Hearing 

In cases where the absent employee has repeatedly ignored attempts at contact, refused to provide a valid reason for their absence, or exhibited a pattern of unauthorised absences, disciplinary action may become necessary. 

It is imperative to follow your company’s policies and adhere to employment laws when conducting a disciplinary hearing. If the employee does not show up to the arranged meeting, the hearing can be rescheduled on the first occasion. If they fail to attend the second hearing, however, recorded decisions can be made in their absence.

Disciplinary Outcomes 

The outcome of disciplinary hearings will vary depending on the circumstances of an employee’s case, here are three common next-step actions which could be taken.

Written Warning: Typically this is the first step taken. Issuing a written warning post-disciplinary hearing re-informs the employee that their actions are not in line with company standards. 

Probation: If an employee repeats offences or ignores previous warnings, they may be placed on probation. This period allows you to monitor their attendance and overall performance closely, ensuring policy compliance.

Dismissal: This is often the last-case scenario. One unauthorised absence does not warrant dismissal. However, after a thorough investigation and failed solutions or agreements, you may have reasonable grounds to take this action.

The Impact Of Unauthorised Absences

Unauthorised employee absence, on a larger scale, can present a substantial challenge to the functionality of your company and the well-being of your workforce.

Disruption to Workflow and Project Timelines 

When an employee unexpectedly fails to show up for work, it can result in delays in ongoing projects, hinder overall productivity, and create stress among colleagues who must pick up the slack. These consequences can ripple throughout your organisation, affecting the stability as a whole.

Strain on Other Employees 

Co-workers often find themselves in the unenviable position of covering for absent employees. This increased workload can lead to burnout, reduced morale, and job dissatisfaction. Over time, it can erode the sense of trust and collaboration within the team.

Potential Financial Implications 

Unauthorised absences can have a direct impact on the financial health of your company. The associated costs may include paying overtime to cover the absent employee’s work, hiring temporary replacements, or facing penalties for failing to meet project deadlines. In the long run, these financial consequences can harm profitability.

Keeping Track of Employee Absence 

Efficiently managing employee absence starts with a robust and comprehensive sickness policy. When paired with software like The Holiday Tracker, you can expect managing all forms of absence to become significantly easier. 83% of our customers report a reduction in sick leave during their first year with us.

With features like sickness heat maps and trend analysis, our software allows you to closely monitor absences. Making it easier to prevent any disruptive trends from developing. 

Our 7-day free trial allows you to integrate the holiday tracker into your business starting today. If you would like to take a full tour of our software you can book a demo with us and our experts will be happy to show you the ropes. 

Final Thoughts

Effectively managing unauthorised employee absences is vital for both your staff and your business’s well-being. 

You need to adopt a proactive, empathetic and informed approach which prioritises open communication and support. While disciplinary actions may be necessary in some cases, they should always be considered a last resort. 

By fostering a culture of accountability and understanding, you can reduce unauthorised absences and create a workplace where employees feel valued and motivated. Ultimately, taking this approach leads to increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and the overall success of your company.

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