Managing An Unauthorised Absence From Work

manager and colleague discussing an unauthorised absence

Managing an unauthorised absence from work can be a sensitive subject. In this article, we offer a primer on what constitutes an unauthorised absence, dealing with one from your workforce and potential disciplinary measures along the way.

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What Is an Unauthorised Absence?

An unauthorised absence is when an employee does not show up for work and hasn’t offered a valid reason for their absenteeism. You may hear the terms AWOL (absent without leave) and absent without permission in addition to unauthorised absence.

Some examples of unauthorised absences may include an employee taking a holiday without first discussing it with anyone (reporting it to their manager or HR).

Even if an employee skips work to go on a last-minute medical appointment, it may still be considered an unauthorised absence if no update is offered.

Whenever an employee doesn’t come to work without communicating a good reason, it can be treated as an unauthorised absence. However, there are cases when the absence should be authorised.

When Is an Absence Authorised?

There are a few notable situations when the absence of the employee should be authorised. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Annual or holiday leave of the employee
  • When the employee is sick (or on long-term sick leave)
  • If the employee has jury duty
  • If the employee had a death of a close relative (compassionate leave)
  • Career breaks
  • Mental health issues
  • Time off for doing public duties like being a member of a local authority

In these cases, you should authorise the absence of your employees. Most of the time, the employees will know in advance about their leaves (except sick leave or compassionate leave) and they will inform you about it so that they can get your authorisation.

Any leave that hasn’t been authorised by you, as the employer, should and will be considered an unauthorised absence.

Dealing With an Unauthorised Absence From Work

When you come up against an unauthorised absence from work, here are the steps to consider taking to deal with it…

The first step is to contact the employee in question. Contact them either by email, phone call, email or even SMS to ask for the reason for their absence.

Much of the time, the absence will have occurred due to compassionate reasons or sick leave, where the employee simply didn’t have the time to log their absence.

In these cases, be sure to show empathy. Consider it as an opportunity to check up on the employee and make sure they are alright.

In other cases, though, where an unauthorised absence is willful and without good reason, you may want to consider taking disciplinary action…

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Disciplinary Action for an Unauthorised Absence

The first thing you should do is contact your employee and hear their reason for being absent from work.

In case you can’t get a hold of them during the day of their absence, try on the next day and use a multichannel approach until you get to them. If you don’t reach them via any communication tools, you should prepare an investigation and be ready to take disciplinary actions against them.

If you manage to reach your employee, you should listen to their reasons for absence and act accordingly. If you believe that their reasons weren’t justified, you should also prepare an investigation and be ready for a disciplinary process on their misconduct.

Disciplinary Outcomes

As an employer, you should conduct a disciplinary hearing where the employee attends. If they fail to attend the hearing, the meeting should be rescheduled (once).

If the employee fails to appear for the hearing again, they will be informed that a decision will be made even if they’re absent from the process.

The disciplinary sanctions will vary from case to case, but they can be divided into three broad groups:

  • Verbal warning. Usually, the unauthorised absence from work isn’t a big enough misconduct to warrant dismissal from the job and usually, a verbal warning to the employee might work.
  • Written warning. If the employee had a few misconducts with unauthorised absence, they might receive a written warning that lays out serious disciplinary actions if the behaviour continues.
  • Dismissal from the job. The biggest disciplinary action that the employer might take is dismissing an employee from their job. This usually happens after the employee had multiple misconducts and has received verbal and written warnings.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unauthorised Absences

Here are the most commonly asked questions and answers about unauthorised absence in the workplace…

Can I Be Sacked For Unauthorised Absence?

An employee can be dismissed for an unauthorised absence, but simply having one is only the beginning of the story. If you had several verbal and written warnings about unauthorised absence, then you may be sacked.

What Happens If You Have An Unauthorised Absence?

You will be contacted by your employer who will then ask for the reason for your absence. If the reason is justified, then nothing will happen. If it isn’t, you will probably get a verbal warning and a disciplinary process may even begin.

How Do You Deal With Unauthorised Absence?

First, contact the absent employee and ask for their reason for absence. If the reason given is not justified, you should begin the disciplinary process to decide how to deal with the issue (verbal warning, written warning or dismissal of the employee).

Do You Get Paid For Unauthorised Absence?

That depends on the absence policy of your organisation and your employment contract, but in most cases, you do not get paid for an unauthorised absence.

Documenting an Unauthorised Absence From Work

What happens when an employee is sick in your organisation, or a family emergency occurs? To avoid having to deal with unauthorised absences that should be authorised, you may need a holistic absence management platform to document leave.

That way, an employee simply has to open up their phone and document their absence. Then, it goes directly to both managers and HR to review, approve and log them into an all-in-one system. No stress, only simpler people processes.

Book a demo today to see Personio’s HRIS solution in action.

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