Absconding employees

A leading BPO to recently bear the brunt of a suit filed on them by an employee who had disappeared from work for more than a month and then suddenly got back one day to rejoin. The organization which had tried several ways of communicating and contacting the employee had to finally terminate him after all the efforts failed. The employee is now claiming unfair dismissal.

Quite often, employers are faced with the problem of an employee who simply disappears without any form of notification to the employer. Any employer who has had this problem is sure to have been faced with a disruption to his/her business. There have been many instances where an employee simply vanishes leaving the organization in a crunch. And to add more to this he/she emerges much later claiming the job. How does an organization handle such a situation in order to be fair to both, the employer and the employee?

When an employee simply fails to return to work and remains absent for sometime employer is confused regarding the exact law for termination of absconding cases. When an employee remains absent for sometime without any intimation, the employer has to act in the following manner. Firstly, on the second day of absence, the employer should contact the employee telephonically. If telephonic contact is not possible, then send an official communication within 2-3 days. Even there is no response is received; send an official letter which should be registered. The letter must enquire the reasons of absence and also mention the consequences. After a week of sending the first letter, the second letter should follow stating the necessity to appoint a new candidate for the post. The employer finally can seek legal advice and accordingly act to terminate the services.

Company can also frame a policy on uninformed absenteeism. If an employee goes absconding from work for seven days in a row, the company separates him/her from their system involuntarily on grounds of un-informed absenteeism. For any informed absenteeism of lesser than seven days at one go, they roll out warning letters to employees. A second case of warning and the employee is liable to be terminated with immediate effect on third instance.

A few companies try to contact such an employee through telephone and registered post. But if the absconding employee does not respond for more than a month, then they terminate his/her services and refuse to release their relieving letters.

Are there any solutions which can be offered to companies to curb this unethical practice? How stringent should an employer be in fighting this menace? Can you identify a probable absconder?

An appointment letter must mention the terms of service including un-notified absence. Legal action of terminating the service is possible. Other than the legal side, at the time of interview and selection, the candidate must be scrutinized – the mental set up, family background, etc., must be taken into consideration. Also, any new candidate must be under behavioral observation. In larger companies, the HR department should evolve a system of analysis. In smaller organizations, the concerned bosses need to be observant. Employees will have to be firm and company rules will have to be followed.

Though organizations follow very stringent background checks, absconding employees are a problem that no organization can totally evade. An employee, most likely to disappear tends to be highly volatile with a skewed career graph by virtue of age and job profile. Past employment history provides considerable insight into a person’s commitment to an organization. Once the candidate joins the company, his/her attendance record, discipline on floor and performance records may form the basis for predicting his/her stay at the company.

Therefore the companies must make sure that a thorough screening of all employees is done before getting them on board. Also keep a track record of all employees and try to read the mind and outlook of an employee. But if an employee had made up his/her mind, nothing can have done about his/her decision.

There are no typical solutions to this practice. Despite company policies and laws, the un-informed absenteeism cannot be abolished though these policies help firms to reduce such instances and help in reducing the impact of uniformed absenteeism on manpower deployment. However, well defined warnings and separation guidelines and the awareness of the same amongst employees is a key to compliance and adherence.

An interesting observation in such cases is the fact that many times, these absconding employees come back after long intervals and they claim that they have been unfairly dismissed. How does the HR department of a company react, when the employees themselves go missing, and the company becomes liable? The study of human relations and emotions is not only interesting but intriguing. The basic fundamental of the fact that no two people are alike or can be alike makes such studies very non-conclusive. Yet psychological studies over the years have shown that a general pattern ca be understood. The act of disappearing in itself is unethical and illegal. Therefore, such employees do not have any moral or legal rights. The management, however, must take the necessary legal steps to counter any claim the employee might make. If the absconding employee was unable to be contacted, then the returned registered letter is the legal proof.

Once the timeline for reverting back to work by an employee absconding is over, the employee has to be separated from the system. The employee has every right to present his/her side of the story within the defined timeline. It could be over any mode of communication. Any communication from the employees’ side only strengthens faith in the employee and his/her commitment to work. However, absconding cases have to be dealt with differently. Failure to communicate from the employee’s side leaves the organization in a lurch. The organization cannot wait indefinitely for the employee to return. In genuine cases, employers may reconsider the employee and re-hire him/her as he/she is already a trained resource for them. Even at Patni, if a disappearing employee comes back within a month, he/she is given a chance to explain his/her absence and is then considered for re-joining. Organizations now become smarter in their policies in order to fight this menace of disappearing employees. It is well understood that if the absconding employee has a genuine reason, he/she will be given a chance to justify his/her actions. But if the reason behind the absence is pure bad intention then it is time up for the employee.

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