Dealing with the Abscondment of Employees in the Workplace

So, your employee decides to take a long unauthorised vacation, what now?

If an employee stay away from work without a valid reason or notice there are certain prescribed steps that should be followed by the employer. In most instances the employer suffers damages and need to appoint someone in the place of such absconding employee, thinking that the absconding employee will not return to work. However, should the employee decides to return to work and find that his position has been filled; he will probably refer the dispute to the CCMA/ Bargaining Council claiming an unfair dismissal.

For the employer to succeed with a case at the CCMA he will firstly need to prove that he endeavoured to contact the employee during his absence. An employer is advised to send a letter of repudiation to the employee via registered mail as prove that the employee was informed of his abscondment and also warned of the fact that should he fail to return to work, that the abscondment will be regarded as a repudiation of his services which repudiation the employer will then accept.

Employers are frequently under the false impression that they have a solid case against an absconded employee who referred the case to the CCMA. To most employers` surprise the CCMA require proof from the employer that the employee did indeed abscond and of the efforts by the employer to trace the employee.

Ignorance by employers about the correct legal process of dealing with abscondment in the workplace imposes great risks for the employer.

Article by: Rolandi du Toit (LLB, LLM)

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