Understanding Abandonment of Employment

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Abandonment of Employment is one of those employment relation topics that is ‘more complex than it first seems’. It’s a topic that comes up from time to time for our clients and there are a few misconceptions about what this term actually means.

So how might it apply to a situation where you have an employee who doesn’t turn up for work?

What is Abandonment of Employment?

Abandonment of Employment occurs when an employee fails to report to work without a valid reason for an unreasonable length of time. They haven’t requested leave, and there’s no reasonable excuse for their absence over a period of time. Essentially, it’s when an employee disappears from the workplace without communication or explanation.

Employee responsibilities

It’s essential to recognise that Abandonment of Employment is a result of the actions (or lack thereof) taken by the employee. Employees have a responsibility to communicate with their employer if they are unable to attend work for any reason. Per the Fair Work Act (2009), Abandonment of Employment is due to the employee having renunciated (that is: ‘given up’) their obligations to their employer.

Challenges faced by employers

Employers often think that because somebody hasn’t shown up for work that they can rather simply, terminate employment immediately on the grounds of ‘abandonment’. In practice, it’s not so straight forward, as there’s often a number of surrounding factors that the employer should take into account before making this decision.

A key obligation of the employer is that they must have made all reasonable attempts to contact the employee before considering termination. An employer’s failure to demonstrate that they did this before terminating the employee, could result in the employee having grounds for a successful Unfair Dismissal claim, which can be costly.  

Navigating the process

Navigating an abandonment of employment situation requires sensitivity and diligence on the part of employers. It’s essential to handle the situation with care, ensuring that all legal requirements are met while also respecting the rights of the absent employee.

How we can help

If you’re facing challenges related to abandonment of employment, we’re here to offer guidance and support.

If you have any questions or concerns about abandonment of employment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to provide the assistance you need and help you find a resolution that works for your business and the particular situation you are managing.

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice to managers and business owners. He recently published his first book, “Exiting Underperforming Team Members – The Inside Scoop”. It is a practical response to the most pressing HR challenges, which can be found at https://resolvehr.com.au/.
Disclaimer: The contents written do not constitute legal advice and does not cater for individual circumstances.   The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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