Every year we help a few of our clients manage a “missing in action” employee. You know the ones – the gone bush, dropped off the face of the planet, nowhere to be found type.

What do you do when you have an employee like this?

As an employer, you can’t be passive in the process of managing their unexplained absence. You must take the lead from day one.

Your good faith responsibilities under the law (and probably outlined in your agreement) require you to make reasonable efforts to contact your employee. You don’t know if your employee is injured, in hospital or just walked off the job never to return again. So make the phone call and find out early on in Day 1. If there’s no answer, leave a message asking them to call you, and follow that up with a text message asking the same. Give it another go later in the day.

On Day 2, if they don’t show up and haven’t responded to your efforts to contact them from the previous day, run through the same process. Only this time make it clear to them that it is important they contact you straight away.

If you’re at Day 3 and there’s been no contact, it’s highly likely you’ve got an employee who is in the process of abandoning their job. You still have a duty to make further efforts to contact them on Day 3 (and let them know you’re considering whether they have abandoned their job), but this is where it stops. If, by the end of the day or maybe on the following morning, you still have not heard from them, you can most likely consider them to have abandoned their job.

If your agreement specifies a time frame other than three days (some agreements specify two days, others five days, in an abandonment of employment clause), you have to make reasonable efforts for the duration your agreement specifies.

Once you have decided it’s abandonment of employment, you should write to the employee at their last known address (and via email) outlining the efforts you’ve made to contact them and advising them of your decision to terminate their employment. You must still pay any outstanding wages and holiday pay due.

Just a point to note – abandonment of employment is focused on consecutive days of work so if a weekend falls in the middle (and the employee doesn’t usually work weekends) then this is not counted.

Before you make that final decision to end employment on the basis of abandonment, we recommend you seek professional advice. We’re here at the end of the phone to guide you if you’re facing a situation like this. Give us a call if you need our assistance 07 823 3250.