Job Abandonment: What is it, and How Should You Handle it?

by Deputy Team, 8 minutes read
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What is job abandonment?

Job abandonment is where an employee:

  • Doesn’t have the authorization to miss work.

  • Doesn’t show up to work for a specified number of days.

  • Fails to communicate their reasons for missing work (or they have no intention of returning to work).

It’s up to you to decide how many days of no-shows constitute job abandonment. However, as a rule of thumb, your employee is regarded as abandoning their job if they fail (or refuse) to attend work for three consecutive days. You should exercise caution when deciding whether no call no-shows constitute job abandonment. This is because, in some crisis situations such as imprisonment, your employee will be unable to make contact. To prevent the wrongful categorization of job abandonment, your business should have a policy detailing how to handle such circumstances.

There are countless reasons why employees are unable to attend work on occasion. Sometimes, it’s a medical emergency that prevents them from performing their duties. Employers understand that absenteeism is a part of life, so they implement contingencies to ensure that their business is always fully staffed. What can get frustrating and confusing for employers is when employees don’t attend work and fail to notify them. On one end of the spectrum is a ‘no call no-show,’ where an employee hasn’t received approval for taking time off but doesn’t show up or call. This no-show employee will normally attend work for the next shift offering reasons why they couldn’t contact the employer. On the other end of the scale is an employee who appears to have abandoned their job altogether.

Job abandonment law

There’s no federal or state legal definition for job abandonment, although there is case law at the state level that provides guidelines for employers. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to define what job abandonment means for your business. You should decide how many consecutive days of unauthorized absence without notification that your employee needs to take before job abandonment kicks in.

Job abandonment in California

California is similar to other states and doesn’t have a law specifying the amount of time that an employee needs to be away from their job without authorization before it’s regarded as job abandonment. However, a recent Californian appeal court decision for the Bareno case suggests that employers must tread carefully when dismissing an employee for job abandonment when medical reasons are involved. This is because such cases could leave employers in violation of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

The Bareno case centered on an employee who, on several occasions, notified her employers by phone and via email that she wouldn’t be attending work because she needed medical attention. The employee also provided medical verification forms. The employer alleged that they didn’t receive one email and, after five days of what it considered unexplained absence, sent a letter of termination to the employee. Before the employee received the termination letter, she sent another medical verification form requesting more leave. The employee was notified that she was fired.

Based on the decision in the Bareno case in California, employers are advised that, if they believe that the employee is absent from work because of CFRA-protected medical reasons, the assumption should be made that the employee hasn’t resigned. Employers also need to be aware that email and spam filters can prevent the delivery of vital messages from the employee. To avoid a similar scenario that occurred in the above case, where a message has gone missing, employers should consider using a single portal to make it easy and simple to communicate with their employees. Sign-up for a Deputy free trial to find out how our communication hub provides a reliable way to keep in touch with your employees for peace of mind.

Termination policy definition

Your job abandonment procedure should be clearly laid out as part of your termination policy. A termination policy is a document that details the events that will cause an employee to stop being part of the workforce. The termination policy can contain information about two types of job terminations:

  • Voluntary job terminations – This is where the employee chooses to end the employment – for example, resignation or job abandonment.

  • Involuntary termination – This happens when an employer terminates an employee by firing or dismissal, for instance, for theft or when downsizing.

Job abandonment policy

Your job abandonment policy should detail the number of consecutive days that an employee needs to be absent without notification to amount to job abandonment and also the procedures management should follow. You should also include different scenarios to further explain what would be viewed as job abandonment. This policy needs to be added to the employee handbook that should be given to every employee with a form requiring a signature stating that they have read and understood the terms.

Job abandonment

Your job abandonment policy should be clear about how you handle employees who fail to show up for work without the necessary notification and should include:

  • Leave notification This refers to the amount of notice that an employee needs to give when they’re unable to attend work. This also includes the number of successive days your employee can miss work without giving you notice before this course of action is considered voluntary termination.

  • Disciplinary process – This is the action that will be taken against your employee if they fail to notify the designated person of their absence within the specified timeframe.

  • Notification options – Explain what the employee should do if they’re not in a position to notify you that they will be absent from work. Let your employees know that they can give a friend or family member permission to contact you on their behalf.

  • Ultimate conclusion – Provide details about how you’ll make the final decision as to whether you will terminate employment on the grounds of job abandonment. Make employees aware that you’ll consider the reasons for their absence before arriving at a final conclusion.

  • Seek consultation – Your job abandonment policy should be written with the help of HR. You should also seek legal advice to ensure that your policy complies with the law.

No call no-show termination

The action of no call no-show doesn’t automatically lead to job abandonment. Employees can do no call no-shows periodically – for instance, one day every six months, therefore avoiding the consecutive days requirement of job abandonment. However, no call no-shows are disruptive to businesses and can add to labor costs. This is particularly the case if an employer is under the jurisdiction of predictive scheduling legislation. For more information on predictive scheduling laws, check out Deputy’s Predictive Scheduling eBook and learn how employers can stay compliant.

If your employee hasn’t followed the procedure detailed in your job abandonment policy, do the following before starting the no call no-show termination of employment process:

  • Try to make contact – Make every attempt to contact your employee to find out why they’re absent and why they didn’t make contact. If the employee has a medical condition, they may be covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Firing someone who’s covered by the FMLA could result in you violating this law.

  • Be consistent – You must be seen to enforce your job abandonment policy fairly for all employees. Irrespective of whether the employee who regularly does no call no-shows is your top salesperson, all employees need to see that you’re committed to applying your policy.

  • Discuss the issue – If an employee is constantly pulling no call no-shows, you should have a discussion with them on a one-on-one basis to discover the problem. Impress on them the importance of notifying the right person when they’re unable to attend work. Also, explain to them how their behavior negatively impacts the team.

  • Document the incidents – All incidents of no call no-shows must be documented. Requiring your employees to use a designated system to notify you of non-attendance will make it easier for record-keeping.

  • Remind them of the consequences – Remind the employee who’s not making contact and taking an unauthorized absence from work that they can be terminated. Refer them to the fact that they have signed a form stating that they have read and understood the relevant terms contained in the employee handbook.

  • Follow through – If your employee continues with their no call no-show behavior, you will need to implement your policy. Enforcing your no call no-show policy will deter other employees who are considering embarking on a similar course of action.

You should be seen to have done everything possible to attempt to address the issue of no call no-shows with your employee. It’s best to avoid making snap decisions without giving your employee time to explain themselves. It’s always safe to get guidance from an HR consultant before terminating an employee for a no call, no-show.

After you’ve decided to terminate your employee because of no call no-show, you need to communicate your decision clearly to avoid any misunderstanding. You should also ensure that your employee receives all the payment that is due to them, including commissions and overtime. If your employee has abandoned the job and they’re in possession of your business property, you’re not allowed to withhold their final pay to get your property back.

Job abandonment letter

You must notify your employee by letter that you will terminate their employment if they failed to make contact to inform you about any circumstances that could have an impact on whether they’re terminated. The letter should specify that, in line with your policy, the employee will be terminated after a specified amount of days of the receipt of the letter if they fail to make contact with a satisfactory reason for missing work and not informing you.

The job abandonment letter should be sent using registered mail with a return receipt as proof that the notification has been served. All attempts to contact the employee should be recorded. The date and times of phone calls and voicemails should be documented.

If the employee fails to make contact within the specified time, you should follow your termination procedure and:

  • Make updates to your employee’s file with the dates that they were terminated.

  • If applicable, send your employee health insurance and COBRA forms.

  • Ensure that payroll is accurate in order to pay the employee everything that they’re entitled to.

You can use a sample job abandonment letter as a template and insert information specific to your business. Always remember to liaise with HR and a legal professional before you send the job abandonment letter to reduce the likelihood of your employee taking legal action against your business.

Since absenteeism is inevitable, your role as an employer is to make it as simple as possible for your employees to communicate with you when they’re unable to attend work. You also need a system that can evidence the communication between you and your employees. Set up a call below to find out how Deputy can help you adhere to your termination policy by recording proof of attempted contact and also the action on the part of your employee.