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Updated: March 6, 2023 101

101: Job abandonment

One day, an employee just doesn’t return from vacation, never to be heard from again. Phone calls go unanswered, and the team member ghosts supervisors and co-workers. They may have even removed belongings from their workspace. It’s called job abandonment, and it happens more often in shift work. In addition to causing concern for their welfare, from an HR standpoint, it calls for careful handling in case of litigation. What happens next?

Investigate thoroughly, advise Akshay Sachdeva and Gustav Anderson. Call and email the employee to see if they intend to return to work. Document all attempts. “Make a second and third attempt after waiting for 24 hours or try to get in touch with the employee’s emergency contact,” they write at “Make as many attempts as necessary to contact the employee until they have been absent for the minimum number of days constituting job abandonment as defined by your company policy.” The next step is a letter to their home, then a termination letter, then check with payroll so they get all money owed to them.

Be ready. In addition to cross-training and planning schedules far in advance, have a network of on-call employees. The Indeed Editorial Team gives these tips to establish a job abandonment policy: Have a minimum number of consecutive days where an employee is considering to have abandoned their job (typically three); give specific scenarios – for instance, if an employee is on sick leave and then does not show up for work after failing to file paperwork for short-term disability, it is considered job abandonment; and state the notification employees will receive.

Make it better to stay. Ways to potentially circumvent job abandonment, according to Zippa’s Caitlin Mazur? Offer fair pay, vacation time, and medical leave. “Medical issues are part of life, and emergencies can pop up without warning,” says Mazur. “Often, people have no choice but to abandon their job in order to maintain their health.”

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