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Preventing Job Abandonment: What HR Needs to Know

job-abandonment

Although it’s not usually common, most employers at some point or another will encounter a situation where an employee abandons their job without any prior notification. Known as job abandonment, this can have a negative impact on your business. It can cause scheduling issues and have a severe impact on productivity. It can also affect team morale if other employees are forced to pick up the slack at the drop of a hat.

However, this can sometimes be tricky as there is no legal definition of job abandonment and it is not covered by US employment law. This means it is vital that you create a clear and well-defined job abandonment policy so that your managers know what to do if an employee fails to turn up to work.

In this post, we will take a look at what is considered job abandonment, how you can manage it, and what you need to include in your policy. We will also share some best practices to help you prevent termination for job abandonment in your business.
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What is Job Abandonment: Definition

If you have yet to experience an employee quitting their job without warning or failing to turn up for work, then you may have a few questions. For instance, what is considered job abandonment? Is job abandonment illegal? How do you know if someone has abandoned their job, or they are just absent? Is job abandonment the same as quitting?

Let’s start with a basic definition.

Job abandonment is when an employee fails to turn up to work for a number of defined consecutive days and cannot be contacted. Effectively, it is a form of voluntary termination where an employee quits their job but fails to notify the company. They have abandoned their position.

There are a number of reasons why an employee might abandon their job, including:

  • Wanting to leave but being too afraid to quit in person
  • Being offered a subjectively better position elsewhere
  • Feeling unhappy in their current role due to lack of recognition, lack of clear direction, or poor corporate culture.

If an employee has failed to turn up to work, you need to consider a number of aspects before you classify it as job abandonment. For example, the employee may be absent due to a medical or family emergency and unable to respond to your calls or emails. Make sure you have conducted all checks and established that an employee has abandoned their post before officially terminating their employment.

Job Abandonment Consequences

Here are a few of the consequences of job abandonment:

  • When an employee fails to show up for work with no warning, it is likely to cause scheduling issues and productivity disruptions.
  • Scheduling issues are also likely to have a knock-on effect on other employees if they have to carry the extra workload. This can affect employee morale and potentially lead to employee burnout.
  • Productivity disruptions are likely to have a negative impact on your business goals and objectives, especially if it takes you considerable time to find a replacement for the employee that has abandoned their post. And it can be especially tricky if you are unsure whether or not an employee will be returning to their position. All this costs time and money.
  • Although there are no specific job abandonment laws, there are legal issues to consider. For example, if the abandonment of work is due to medical reasons, then you may need to address any potential FMLA or ADA concerns.

How to Manage Abandonment of Work

The first thing you need to do if an employee doesn’t turn up for work is to try to contact them via phone and/or email. There may be a reasonable explanation for their absence so don’t jump to conclusions until you are sure they have voluntarily terminated their employment without notice.

If you are unable to contact the employee after numerous attempts, then you can proceed with the process detailed in your job abandonment policy. Don’t be hasty though and make sure the established leave notification period has passed before you proceed with official termination. If you get ahead of yourself and don’t follow established protocol, then it could result in a wrongful termination claim.

If you do end up proceeding to termination, then make sure you follow all necessary steps to protect yourself. For one thing, make sure that your employee’s personnel file is up to date and includes all important documentation. This includes performance reviews, hours logged, and any written warnings. You also need to file a written record of your attempts to contact the employee.

Finally, once you terminate employment, make sure you issue a final paycheck with allowed wages, overtime, and any other due payments. You will also need to file the appropriate COBRA and insurance forms, if applicable. Even though an employee has quit with no notice, you are still legally obligated to pay all contractually agreed payments and benefits up to the point they abandoned their position.

Setting up a Job Abandonment Policy

As there are no time and attendance or wage and hour laws relating to job abandonment then you need to make sure you create a clearly defined job abandonment policy. This will ensure all managers are clear on procedures and all employees understand the consequences of unreported employee absenteeism. It will also protect you against potential liability claims in the event an employee contests the decision.

The policy should be included in your employee handbook and contain the following elements.
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Definition of Job Abandonment

The first thing to clarify in your abandonment policy is what is considered job abandonment in your company. How many days of unnotified absences will you tolerate before you consider it a voluntary termination? There are no legal guidelines here, but the standard is typically three consecutive days.

Communication

What communication channels should an employee use to notify you of an absence? Should they call their manager, or do absences need to be communicated in writing? Can a friend or family member contact you on their behalf? If so, who should they contact?

Disciplinary Process

You also need to detail your disciplinary process for abandonment of work. This is the action you will take if an employee fails to turn up for work without notification. Actions include phone calls, written warnings, notice of termination etc. Explicitly state that any continued absence will be grounds for voluntary termination.

Termination Procedure

Finally, make sure you clearly detail your termination procedure. What criteria will you use to make your final decision to terminate? Will you consult the employee’s performance record and previous absences?

Once you conclude that the job abandonment was a voluntary termination, follow the standard procedure for termination at your company. It’s important to pay terminated employees for all due work, including overtime and owed PTO. The best way to calculate employee hours worked is by having a reliable system in place for time and expense tracking. You can use our free Time and Attendance Template to keep track of the hours your employees are working. Aside from facilitating payroll, this Excel timesheet also helps you ensure compliance with US labor laws and FLSA timekeeping requirements.

Preventing Job Abandonment and Absenteeism

Let’s finish by looking at a few best practices to help you prevent job abandonment and absenteeism in your company. Some of these practices require a degree of investment in terms of time and/or expenses. However, keep in mind that higher retention levels save you money in the long term.

  • Conduct surveys. Make sure you regularly check in with your employees. Aside from holding regular appraisals, you could also send regular surveys to your employees. This will help you identify any concerns they want to address.
  • Review your policies. A competitive paid time off policy is another great way to attract and retain motivated employees. If they feel overworked and frustrated, they are more likely to abandon their position. The same goes for managing overtime for exempt employees and time and a half. And if you don’t already have one, consider implementing a medical leave-of-absence policy, even if it’s unpaid.
  • Implement measures to improve the well-being of your employees. For example, a remote work policy offers a great deal of flexibility. And you can use a time tracking app with geofencing technology so you know who’s on the clock at all times.
  • Finally, you can reduce job abandonment by paying competitive wages. If you underpay your employees they will be much more likely to leave your company without warning. A competitive salary will keep them loyal and motivated.

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