The word ‘absconding’ can best be described as an employee who has the intention to never return to work. In this instance, the employer has an obligation to first establish if the employee does not have an intention to return to work before dismissing the employee. The employer will not know whether the employee has an intention to work and therefore, the onus rests on the employer to establish whether the employee has an intention to return to work or not before terminating the services of the employee.
In most cases, disciplinary codes as well as contracts of employment in the workplace deal with un-communicated absences from employees in the workplace for a period of 3 to 5 days as abscondment.
We propose that the employee is dealt with as follow, this is a mere guideline:
- Call the employee and send messages informing the employee to report to work, indicating the consequences of failing to do so, for at least a week or two;
- Enquire with the employee’s friends and/or family on the employee’s whereabouts;
- Send a letter to the employee by registered mail or have it delivered at the last known address of the employee informing the employee to return to work and indicating the consequences of failing to so;
- Keep a record of the dates and times that contact was made with the employee or his/her friends or family. This is also called a desertion diary.
Should the employee fail to return to work or communicate with the employer after attempts by the employer to have the employee return to work, the employer should send the employee a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing by registered mail and/or have it delivered to the last known address of the employee. The employee will be charged with abscondment or unauthorised absence from work for the period that the employee had absconded.
The notice of the disciplinary hearing must state the consequences of not attending the hearing, that the disciplinary hearing will proceed in the absence of the employee.
If the disciplinary hearing proceeds in the absence of the employee, the employer must send the employee a letter confirming the dismissal by registered mail or have it delivered to the last known address of the employee. It is always advisable that should the employee return to work (after his/her services were terminated) and provides the employer with a valid reason and sufficient proof of his absence, the employee should be advised to lodge an appeal against the outcome of the disciplinary hearing that was concluded in his/her absence.
Remember that communicated absence from work cannot be dealt with as abscondment since the employee has indicated his intention to return to work to the employer.
Article by: Joan Ngoepe
Dispute Resolution Official – Polokwane