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When workers go AWOL - know your rights as an employer

Unauthorised absence can be deemed fair grounds for dismissal, but it pays to know your rights and responsibilities as an employer to avoid employment tribunal claims.

The case of an employee going off on sick leave and then failing to return, in spite of repeated attempts by their employer to contact them, is one with which many companies and organisations are familiar. So at what point can it be deemed fair for an employer to consider that an AWOL employee has 'self-dismissed'?

Several recent legal cases have shown that this can be a grey area in law, and that the concept of 'self-dismissal' is far from clear-cut. Before dismissing a member of staff, employers need to demonstrate first that they have taken all reasonable measures to contact them to ask whether they wish to resign and communicate the intention to dismiss them if no response is received by a certain date. It's particularly important to keep records of all attempts, as failing to show that you have made sufficient effort to contact your employee can leave you open to claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination later on.

Acas runs practicaltraining coursesto equip managers, supervisors and HR professionals with the necessary skills to deal with employment relations issues such as long-term absence, sick leave and dismissal of employees.

Find out more about Acas support for public sector organisations undergoing change or visit the Acas training and business solutions page for more information.

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