Introduction to this document

Unauthorised absence letter

If an employee fails to report for work without explanation and you’re unable to make contact with them by telephone, write to them asking them to clarify whether they have resigned and, if not, warning them that unauthorised absence is a serious disciplinary offence. Don’t just assume they’ve resigned and do nothing.

Unauthorised absence

It’s not uncommon for employees to simply fail to report for work without providing any reason for their absence. It often happens without any warning or obvious explanation. In these circumstances, you need to be proactive. Your aim is to try and discover what has happened and whether or not the employee plans to return to work. The starting point is to telephone the employee. Try at least a couple of times and leave messages, if possible. Keep a detailed record of your attempts at contact. If this doesn’t work, write to the employee on their second day of unauthorised absence asking them to make contact as a matter of urgency and giving them a reasonable deadline by which to do so, stating that their conduct implies that they have resigned. The Unauthorised Absence Letter will help you here. Using this letter will result in one of three possible scenarios:

 the employee submits their written resignation. Assuming there are no written complaints or grievances raised, this should be relatively straightforward to deal with

 the employee contacts you to make arrangements for a return to work. If there is no reasonable explanation or excuse for the unauthorised absence and the failure to make contact, you should invoke your disciplinary procedure. A formal warning may well be appropriate and, in some cases, summary dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct might well be justified

 the employee does not reply to your letter and continues to fail to make contact with you.

Assumed resignation?

In the last scenario, in the absence of an express verbal or written resignation by the employee, it’s not safe for you to simply assume that the employee has resigned and to act accordingly. In employment law terms, there cannot be a resignation just by the withdrawal of labour and the failure to contact you. Rather, the employee must have actually communicated an intention to resign to you. The employee’s contract of employment does not end until you accept their breach of contract in failing to attend work by actually dismissing them. What you would therefore need to do in this scenario is to take steps to terminate the employee’s employment for an ongoing failure to attend work by following a fair dismissal procedure. First, make all reasonable attempts to establish further contact with the employee, including leaving phone messages with home numbers and mobile numbers and contacting the employee’s listed next of kin. Again, keep detailed records of your attempts at contact. Also, ask the employee’s fellow workers if they have heard anything or know what’s going on. If all that fails, then write to the employee setting up a formal disciplinary hearing under the terms of your disciplinary procedure. If the employee fails to attend the hearing - which is highly likely given that they have failed to return to work, failed to reply to your letter and failed to return your phone calls - then assuming they do not provide acceptable reasons for their non-attendance, the hearing can go ahead in their absence and they will be notified of the outcome in writing and given a right of appeal.