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How to handle job abandonment as a manager

How did you handle job abandonment? The best way to deal with it is to be proactive and communicate.

No matter what industry you operate in, job abandonment is detrimental to your business. It can be really stressful for the company due to the resulting admin work as well as the impact on the remaining employees who have to pick up the slack.  

It is a tricky area to handle but there are ways to avoid it. Read on to find out more! 

What is job abandonment? 

It is described by Sultan Lawyers as when an employee has a continued pattern of absences that indicates they have resigned without formal notice. It usually occurs after an employee has been absent for a period of time and shows no indication of returning to the workplace. It can be a headache as you waste time contacting the worker to find out information. As well as having to go through a hiring process to look for a new employee further down the line.  

Signs of job abandonment 

Here are some common signs that an employee has abandoned their post and has no intention of returning.  

  • The employee has been absent from work for a number of consecutive days without explanation or notice 
  • There has been no form of communication between employee and employer including phone calls and emails 
  • The employee is not responding to communication from the employer  
  • Employees’ personal belongings are no longer in their workspace 
  • The employee has stopped contacting their colleagues  

Causes 

Each employee is different so the causes of employee abandonment will vary depending on the person. Some employees may have valid reasons such as emergencies and the situation can’t be helped. However, there are always a few irresponsible employees who may think it’s easier to abandon a position rather than officially resign.  A few examples of why an employee abandons their job are: 

  • Medical reasons
  • Personal/family emergency 
  • The employee found a new job 
  • The employee doesn’t feel comfortable to “officially” quit  
  • The employee feels burned out or stressed 

Impacts 

Liability to the employer:

Employers need to be careful in how they handle job abandonment. Employment laws will differ depending on the location but take for example Ontario’s employment law. Ontario’s law states that employers are legally obligated to contact employees about unauthorized absences from work. As well as to provide employees with written warnings. If an employer does not take the appropriate action it can result in being on the wrong side of an unfair dismissal case from the employee. Not dealing with job abandonment correctly leaves the employer in a vulnerable position for liable action.  

Impact on costs for the employer:

When an employee abandons their position the employer will more than likely have to eventually hire a new employee to take their place. Did you know, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) it costs employers an average of $4,129 and takes an average of 42 days to fill an open position? The cost to hire employees increases proportionately based on the duration of the search, job role, and salary range. As well as using up valuable time and resources in the process!

Waste of company resources:

As mentioned, your valuable resources are used during the process. HR team members have to spend time contacting the employee over a long period of time to find out if they are returning. Management needs to delegate certain tasks to the remaining workers to ensure the productivity level of the business isn’t affected. Also, a lot of time will need to be spent on the hiring process of a new employee if the worker doesn’t return.  

Increased workload for other workers:

During job abandonment, other workers will need to take on extra work to make up for the missing person on their team. This can cause stress to other employees if their workload gets too much and may lead to workplace stress and employee burnout. We’ve spoken about these in other blog posts so make sure to check them out.  

How to handle job abandonment 

Emergencies happen and that’s just a part of life. Occasionally, workers may genuinely not be able to give notice and have to abandon their position. It is important the employer does their best to make contact with the employee and find out the reason behind them leaving or get an official resignation. Here are some ways you can combat job abandonment. 

Create a policy around job abandonment:  

The best way to combat job abandonment is to be proactive about it. Ensure there is something in the employment contract around job abandonment. For example, 4 days of unexplained absences with no follow-up within 1 month will be regarded as job abandonment. You should include how the employee and the employer should handle it in your employee handbook. What are the steps the employer must take? What is the resignation process an employee needs to follow before they are considered officially resigned? What are the consequences of someone unofficially resigning from the business e.g., are termination entitlements such as severance pay entitled?  

You should include the following in your policy: 

  1. A copy of an officially signed resignation letter 
  1. Resignation process – how does an employee officially resign? 
  1. What constitutes job abandonment 
  1. Consequences of job abandonment 
  1. Communication methods – the best way to contact an employee, as well as an alternative method of contact e.g. personal email address, family/friend contact in case of emergencies. 

Be compassionate

It’s important to remember that there are genuine reasons why an employee may not be able to contact you. Emergencies happen and sometimes employees may not be able to give notice about not attending work. Ensure you fully understand the reason behind someone’s absence prior to sending a written warning. If you don’t you can be liable for unfair dismissal, which is something every company wants to avoid. You can ask for proof of the emergency to ensure the worker is telling the truth and to cover the business in the future. The main point here is to try to be compassionate when dealing with employees because these emergencies can happen to anyone. 

Have a backup plan  

No-shows can be stressful and cause havoc to your employee schedule. At Celayix, we consider ourselves scheduling experts so we understand better than anyone how much these last-minute, unexpected changes cause to a schedule. Ensure you have a backup plan in case of these last-minute changes. For example, Celayix software has a find a replacement tool that allows you to quickly search for other qualified employees for certain shifts and send an instant shift notification to them. When the employee confirms you will get notified. This takes the stress out of editing your schedule and saves you time on having to call around other employees to take the shift.  

Communicate 

Proactive communication is the key here. You should always try to contact your employee to find out why they are absent in the first case. As mentioned, having an alternative contact is a good way to ensure you can still get in touch with them if your first communication method fails. That being said, you should give the employee some leeway to offer an explanation. Jumping the gun too soon and terminating a contract can result in an unfair dismissal case. Hopefully, you will get a response from your absent employee. If this becomes a regular occurrence you need to provide a warning and let them know of the consequences if their behaviour continues. This way you are ensuring you are covering yourself and have proof of all communication sent to the employee. 

Job abandonment is a serious issue and is extremely costly to your business. Don’t fret as there are things you can put in place to prevent and combat it. Celayix software has built-in tools that do just that! Our ‘find a replacement’ feature and our AI rule-based engine makes dealing with no-shows and last-minute changes easy!  Get in touch here if you would like to find out more about our features.

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