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Topic: Time off and holidays

failure to return from holiday letter
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Failure to return from holiday letter

Failure to return from holiday letter

If an employee fails to return from holiday on time and you’re unable to make contact with them by telephone to establish what’s going on, write asking them to clarify whether or not they have resigned and, if not, warning them that unauthorised absence is a serious disciplinary offence.

Unauthorised absence

It’s not uncommon for employees to simply fail to report for work without providing any reason for their absence. This sometimes happens when an employee is due back from annual leave but where they’ve decided, of their own volition and without any approval, that they would like a few extra days off! 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 that does not work, then you should 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. If the employee does then submit their resignation, you can deal with that appropriately. Assuming there are no complaints or grievances raised, this should be relatively straightforward.

Disciplinary offence

Unauthorised absence is a disciplinary matter, so if and when the employee does return to work, you can then deal with this in accordance with 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.

Assumed resignation?

If, however, you don’t hear anything at all from your employee in response to your letter, unfortunately you can’t just assume they’ve resigned and then leave it at that. The employee needs to actually resign, either by words (whether verbal or in writing) or by clear conduct. Silence, together with the withdrawal of labour, is insufficient. So, you should then take steps to dismiss the employee 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.


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