4 min read | 20 February, 2017 By Rachael Down
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Whether you're skiving, pulling a sickie, or bunking off, taking unauthorised absence from work is a serious matter, which can cause massive headaches for managers, HR departments as well as those who have to pick up your work.
Unsurprisingly, most companies frown on unauthorised absences, which can result in disciplinary action or grounds for dismissal.
Most people recognise the strain that unauthorised absence from work puts on colleagues who have to make up the shortfall on behalf of the missing worker. Some even regard it as akin to theft.
Whatever your view, take control by providing clear guidance via employment contracts and absence management handbooks.
Unauthorised absence is failing to turn up for work without good reason.
Unauthorised absence is when you take time away from work without providing a valid, authorised reason. It even covers absences where you don’t believe the excuse.
Make sure you're covered and take another look at your employee and company policies. Here's how to handle absence management the right way:
Plainly state what constitutes unauthorised absence in your employment contracts. Make sure you include how the company manages it and clearly define what the consequences are for unauthorised absence from the word go.
Record and measure absence and sickness. Whether you tackle this manually or automate it via an IT system, you can use it in retrospect to pick out any patterns of absence, such as someone who might have “Monday morning syndrome”.
Choose an HR software that has a sickness management feature. Ours, at Breathe does just what it says on the tin and can help trigger actions when an unauthorised absence is recorded.
Holding interviews with an employee when they return to work can help employee relations in a number of ways. Not only can you enquire after the employee's wellbeing and bring them up to speed with any company news they may have missed, but you can also determine the reasons for the absence. Moreover, holding such interviews can discourage employees from taking bogus days off if they think they might be quizzed about their absence on their return.
How you manage an unauthorised absence may depend on the length of time taken off and how – or if - the employee has tried to justify it. For example, you may deal differently with someone who's absent for one day than you would with someone who's absent for a prolonged period.
Regardless of circumstances, remember to remain fair and consistent in your management of unauthorised absences. Explain the company process to all managers to ensure they adopt the same approach with all staff and consistency across the company.
Unauthorised absence from work is not typically classed as gross misconduct. Employment experts usually recommend that it should be handled with a succession of warnings, which, if ignored, results in the employee attending a disciplinary hearing.
If you are still without an adequate explanation as to the absence, or if your staff member has failed to show up for work after some days, or if your previous disciplinary warnings have gone unheeded, then you can hold a disciplinary hearing. Make sure to follow your company’s procedures for holding this hearing.
You can hold this in the absence of the staff member, as long as you have given them reasonable notice of the hearing and are certain that they have received this. Explain that the absence was unauthorised and why that is so. If you believe that the employee’s continued unauthorised absence constitutes gross misconduct, then you may dismiss them for that. Write to them with the outcome of the disciplinary hearing and advise them that they may appeal the decision and how they can do this.
Absence management is an important part of the human resources role. When undertaken properly and with strong policies in place, you can protect your company against the detrimental aspects of unauthorised absence. You’ll reduce business disruption, prevent negative sentiment and low morale in the other staff, and reduce the costs that are associated with unauthorised absence.
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