Guide to managing an AWOL employee

£ 20

Our Guide to managing an AWOL employee streamlines handling sudden absences, promoting operational continuity and employee accountability.

This guide focuses on managing employees who are Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) and provides step-by-step guidance on addressing the issue, conducting investigations, and taking appropriate disciplinary actions.

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Time to read / prep / use
5 mins
Document specs icon
Document specs
504 words, 2 pages
Date last reviewed icon
Date last reviewed
1 June 2024
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guide to managing an awol employee

What is this guide for?

The purpose of a guide to managing an AWOL (Absent Without Leave) employee is to provide a structured and effective approach for supervisors and managers to handle situations where an employee is absent from work without prior notice or approval for example where they do not arrive for a scheduled shift, they walk out during the working day, or you are unable to contact them.

The guide helps address AWOL cases promptly, ensuring clear communication, understanding reasons for absence, enforcing company policies, and taking appropriate actions to mitigate disruptions and maintain a productive work environment.

Applicable legal jurisdictions
In which jurisdictions can this guide be used?
Great Britain & NI (United Kingdom), Worldwide
  • Employment Rights Act 1996: Provides framework for addressing unauthorised absences and enacting appropriate disciplinary measures.

  • Working Time Regulations 1998: Governs working hours, leave entitlements, and absence management.

  • Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999: Guides management of absences related to parental leave.

What communication / process sequence is this part of?

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Unauthorised absence policy

Our Unauthorised Absence Policy Template tackles absenteeism, enforces accountability, and maintains a productive work culture.

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Guide to managing an AWOL employee
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Unauthorised absence first reminder letter template

Our Unauthorised Absence First Reminder Letter template helps address unexplained absences and prompts employee communication.

Guide to managing an AWOL employee

It’s unusual, but occasionally you might find yourself in the situation of having to deal with an employee who has effectively gone AWOL (absent without official leave). In other words they haven't turned up for work (or they have left work), with no explanation.

Dealing with an AWOL employees can be challenging, but a structured approach ensures fairness, compliance, and effective resolution. Follow these steps to navigate the situation:

Step 1: Consider the Circumstances

Before taking any action, assess the context surrounding the employee's absence:

  • Review the employee's attendance record to understand their history.

  • Explore any personal problems, health issues, or conflicts that might contribute to their absence.

  • Investigate whether there have been recent disputes or disagreements in the workplace.

  • Determine if there's reason to suspect workplace bullying or harassment.

  • Examine whether the absence coincides with stressful periods at work or denied leave requests.

Step 2: Get in Touch

When an employee is AWOL, follow these steps to establish contact:

  • Begin by attempting to contact the employee via phone calls. Calls are more immediate and personal than texts or emails.

  • Document all contact attempts, including dates, times, and methods used.

  • If phone calls don't yield results, consider reaching out to emergency contacts provided by the employee. Use discretion based on the urgency of the situation.

  • If all attempts fail over a span of two days, consider sending a formal letter outlining the consequences of continued absence. Specify a deadline for response.

Step 3: Don't Assume Resignation

Avoid making assumptions about the employee's intentions:

  • Resist assuming that the employee's absence equates to resignation. This approach may lead to unintended legal consequences.

  • Instead, treat the absence as a potential breach of contract and prepare for a formal dismissal process.

  • Ensure that the employee is aware of the potential consequences of their absence.

Step 4: Investigate Upon Return

When the employee returns, gather information to inform your next steps:

  • Conduct a one-on-one interview to discuss the absence. Request a detailed explanation for the unauthorised leave.

  • Depending on the explanation, decide whether additional support is necessary or if disciplinary action is warranted.

Step 5: Take Disciplinary Action

If the circumstances warrant, follow your organisation's disciplinary procedures:

  • If the employee's absence was without valid reason and the situation is not covered by compassionate or personal leave policies, initiate disciplinary action.

  • Follow your organisation's standard disciplinary process, ensuring the employee is provided with the opportunity to be represented by a colleague or trade union official.

  • Depending on the severity of the absence and the employee's record, unauthorised leave might be considered gross misconduct.

By following these steps, you can navigate AWOL situations with professionalism, fairness, and adherence to legal and organisational policies. Effective management helps maintain a productive work environment while upholding employee rights and well-being.

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