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Q&A: What is job abandonment and how do I know when it’s occurred?

There really isn’t a strict definition of what constitutes job abandonment. Many employers use the standard of three consecutive absences with no notice, but you can set the standard for your organization.

To keep everyone on the same page, we recommend defining job abandonment in your employee handbook. Explain what job abandonment means at your organization and what happens when it occurs. For example, you might say that if an employee is absent for three consecutive days and has not provided proper notification, the company will assume that the employee has abandoned their position and will be treated as having voluntarily terminated employment with the company.

But even with a clear policy, we recommend attempting to contact an absent employee before terminating. There may be extenuating circumstances, and in some cases the employee may be entitled to protected leave (for instance, if they were in a car accident and have been in the ICU). Attempt to reach out by phone, text, or email, depending on how the employee has said they’d like to be reached. Document your attempts to communicate with them and make note of the outcome.

If you’re unable to reach them and their absence qualifies as job abandonment under your policy, you can proceed with termination. Should you later discover that the employee was entitled to protected leave (rare but possible), you may need to reinstate them, assuming that’s what they want.

Answer from Kyle, PHR:
Kyle is a professional author, editor, and researcher specializing in workplace culture, retention strategies, and employee engagement. He has previously worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, nationally-known business leaders, and non-profit organizations. He has a BA in English, an MA in philosophy, and a PHR certification.

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