Before initiating any action against the delinquent employee for unauthorized absence an employer must assess the root cause for such a situation. It is not normal for any employee to risk their job by resorting to glaring violations unless there is some compelling condition(s) or they are habituated to irresponsible behavior. Reasons for AWOL:
1) Lack of Buy-in/Interest
Sometimes a person takes on the job as a stop-gap or as a temporary solution until something suitable comes along. Or that position may have been allotted to them without adequate assessment of skillsets/interests or inadequate training for the role. Under this kind of pressure, when the employee feels stressed and pushed into the role where they are not interested or lack the capability, the easiest and best solution they find is to avoid work by all means. The way out for low/no incentive or no motivation to focus on that job seems to absent frequently. Finding the reason and filling the gap goes a long way in cutting down delinquency.
2) Proper Communication
Communication is a two-way street. Listening to an employee is crucial. Unilateral decisions taken on stereotyping a situation or people and letting biases affect the judgement do not augur well for healthy communication or worse still pushing the issues under the carpet. Instead, having the mindset of “Let’s Talk” will help facilitate communication. Empathy is essential to building rapport and making the employees feel that they are valued and cared for. Creating a proper communication channel and providing opportunities for sharing views will undoubtedly bring both parties to the same page. Instead of deciding based on a phone call or an email, following up with the delinquent employee and having a conversation to resolve the issues is the healthy way to manage employee relations and retention of talent.
Frequently absenting employees may have issues like workplace harassment, sexual harassment, physical discomfiture, personal/health problems, and demotivating factors desisting from coming to work. These are the practical and proven factors, which can only be identified through proper investigation. Once the correct reasons are ascertained then the employer may decide whether such absence is lawful; is it misconduct; or is it a wilful act.
Every organization must have well-drafted, progressive, and stringent leave policies in place that shall be adhered to by all the employees. Often leave policies are not clear on unauthorized and prolonged absence. Laying down the rules and actions deters leave violations.
5) Legal action:
Having a legal strategy in place to address leave violations should be mandatory. Just sending one legal notice without further follow-up action makes the employer look like a paper tiger and sets the wrong trend. Employers may have to spend some time, resources, and money to get the right legal recourse against violating employees, thus sending a strong message across the board that there is 0% tolerance against employees who don’t adhere to company policies.
Despite being diligent and following the steps one cannot rule out unruly employees at work. However, an employer by establishing comprehensible leave policies, creating periodical awareness of the company policies, and implementing them in letter and in spirit can protect a company against the detrimental effects of unauthorized absence. Obtaining correcting legal advice to follow proper procedures in initiating disciplinary action against delinquent employees mitigates business disruption and cut down the unnecessary litigation cost as well.