There was a relatively high profile example of unplanned employee absence this week, as Radio 1’s Greg James failed to turn up to work to present his breakfast show following the previous night’s Brit Awards.
Although it later turned out to be part of a game where listeners had to guess who’d “kidnapped” him, real-life employee no-shows can be a common occurrence. However, employers can act to prevent them.
As with any other absence case, managers should always follow their sickness absence procedure and not act in haste.
Had the absence been real, the BBC would have to take care not to automatically assume Greg was too drunk or hungover to work. Employees have to be treated fairly in order to avoid potential employment tribunal cases.
However, if they have acted inappropriately, either by lying about the true reason for their absence, or failing to follow the company’s absence reporting process, appropriate action should be taken, following the company’s disciplinary process, once a full investigation has been carried out.
Employers should initially try to get in contact with the employee to determine their whereabouts and see if they’re ok. They should try phoning, emailing, and if they still can’t get through, perhaps checking with their emergency contact. There should also be a record of any attempt to get in touch.
If their absence is genuine, and the correct reporting procedure has been followed, no further action is usually needed unless an absence ‘trigger point’ is met.
If the employee does eventually turn up to work without an acceptable reason, then the employer should act in accordance with their disciplinary procedure.
The employer should schedule an investigation meeting where the employee can explain their absence. Appropriate disciplinary action can then be taken, based on whether the no-show can be considered as being late, or whether they have missed a full working day without authorisation.
Disciplinary action will usually involve a series of warnings. However, if this has happened on numerous occasions, and appropriate action was taken at the time, then dismissal may be considered. An employee who has been with the company less than two years can be dismissed fairly swiftly, following an assessment of the situation and the facts.
Remember that an employee who has worked for an company for longer than two years has protection against unfair dismissal, so the correct disciplinary process steps must be carried out first.
If an employee is absent from work for any reason other than a planned holiday, it is important that they follow the company’s rules to report the absence. It’s essential that both management and staff are familiar with the company’s absence procedure, which should be detailed in the employee handbook.
It should be outlined how an employee can get in touch with their manager to inform them that they may be late or unable to come into work.