Many of us are familiar with the term ‘ghosting.’ In the world of dating, it’s the dreaded phenomenon when a person cuts all communication with the person they are dating. The phenomenon has now moved to the world of work, with employers now receiving the cold shoulder. In 2018, global employment law consultancy Peninsula received a 21% increase in calls to their advice line from employers regarding employees leaving a job with zero notice instead of formally quitting and new starters never turning up for the first day. So what should employers do if there employee varnishes without a word? Peninsula Operations Director and HR Expert Alan Price advises.
‘Ghosting’ leaves employers in a frustrating predicament. They’ll have no information on what’s happened to the employee, if they are well and safe, or how long they may be absent for. The absence will put increased pressure on other members of staff to get work done and employers may be inclined to consider the employee to have simply resigned and get a replacement in. However, this is probably not the best initial move.
Whilst unauthorised absence without good cause is a disciplinary offence, employers should wait to hear if the employee has any explanation before taking formal action. For example, the employee may have had an accident that has prevented them from getting into work, or a family emergency that they have had to respond to. Reasonable and recorded attempts to contact the individual should be made via various methods including telephone and email. If no response is received, employers should attempt to reach the employee using any other contact details available or even via their emergency contact. Letters should be sent by recorded delivery. There is no obligation to pay the individual during the period they are absent without notification; pay can always be restored at a later date once the facts have been established.
Attempts at communication with the employee should include a date by which they should respond and a warning that if no response is received by that date, that formal action may be taken. If the employee doesn’t make contact, then employers may decide to formally terminate employment.
A fair procedure would still be required in order to fairly dismiss the employee so this should be borne in mind. Employees can still make a claim for unfair dismissal based on the grounds that the procedure wasn’t correct regardless of a real, valid reason for dismissal. Again, attempts should be made to communicate the dismissal to the employee via various methods.
‘Ghosting’ can be highly inconvenient for employers and they should take steps to prevent it where possible. One option is to maintain a clear policy that highlights company procedure surrounding absence without notification and how pay will be handled in that situation. Employees should also be encouraged to speak to their managers about any personal issues that might require them to take time off.