What to Do When an Employee Abandons their Job

By Kimberly Kafafian


One day an employee just doesn’t show up for work. No phone call, no email, no text – no explanation. The next day, the same thing occurs. And the day after that, still no contact. Their actions are impacting your ability to run your business. What can you do about their abandonment? Below are some tips to help you address the situation, along with strategies to prevent it from happening again in the future.

What Constitutes Job Abandonment?

Job abandonment occurs when an employee does not show up for work and does not notify the employer of their intention to quit. By not communicating with the employer, it is assumed that the employee has abandoned their job.

There are no federal or state laws that specify the number of days that must pass before abandonment applies, but the most common time period is three business days. In some states, existing case law may establish what is considered a reasonable time period. If an organization has a job abandonment policy in place that outlines the number of days, that is the time period that would apply.

Actions to Take When an Employee Abandons Their Job

If you believe an employee as abandoned their position, you should take the following actions:

Assess the Situation
Not all failures to show up or call in are necessarily job abandonments. There is the possibility that the employee was not able to make contact, such as in a medical emergency. It is important to conduct an investigation to uncover the cause and mitigate any liability. Contact the employee, via phone and email, to find out why they did not come to work and ask if they plan on returning. If you are not able to connect with the employee on the first day, try again – multiple times – over the next few days, until the minimum number of days that is considered abandonment has lapsed. You should also reach out to the employee’s emergency contact and let them know you have been trying to get in touch with the employee. If all of these contact attempts fail, send the employee a letter to their home address noting the dates of missed work and all of your attempts to reach them, and advising that if they don’t contact you within seven days you will consider their non-response to be job abandonment.

Record Everything
Make sure you record all of your contact attempts and place this information in the employee’s personnel file. It is very important to keep track of your actions.

Send a Termination Letter
If you are not able to make contact with the employee despite your efforts, and they have not responded to your letter, send them a termination of employment letter. Be very specific in this letter by including:

  • hat they are being terminated because of job abandonment
  • The dates of missed work
  • Your attempts to contact them
  • Your rules for return of any company property
  • A contact they can reach out to with questions
  • Any required COBRA and insurance paperwork
  • Last paycheck if required

Steps to Prevent Job Abandonment

Create a Job Abandonment Policy

To avoid any confusion, you should create a job abandonment company policy, which is included in your employee handbook and any online employee portals, that states:

  • How many no shows or no calls constitutes job abandonment
  • The consequences of abandoning your job, i.e., that it is considered voluntary termination, which prevents collecting unemployment benefits

This policy should also address short-term disability, as well as the Family Medical Leave Act, specifically outlining that if the employee does not show up to work for a specific number of days and fails to request a leave of absence for a medical or family emergency, or fails to file disability paperwork, they will be deemed to have abandoned their job.

You should also have a policy in place for how you will investigate and take action on possible job abandonment, such as:

  • How you will attempt contact
  • How many times you will attempt contact
  • How you will record your attempts
  • How you will send out termination letter if all attempts fail
  • Having clear policies in place will let employees know the consequences of their failure to call in or come to work.

Build a Culture Where Employees Feel Appreciated

People abandon their jobs because they are not happy with them. If you want to prevent job abandonment, create a culture where your workers feel valued, appreciated, and heard. Offer lenient personal and sick time. Encourage communication and sharing of ideas. Take an active role in, and provide opportunities for, professional development. Consider benefits beyond salary. If possible, be flexible with where and when employees work.

If you need help developing job abandonment policies, or enhancing your culture, schedule a free consultation to talk to one of our HR experts.

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