Absence from Duty is a Perennial
Organizational Problem




Employees' absence from duty is a fairly common occurrence causing a lot of problems to employers and other employees. If left unchecked it can spread like a virus.

What constitutes Absence from Duty
Absence is a failure by an employee to report for work during stipulated time or being away from the place of work for a certain period of time without any reasonable excuse.

An employment contract requires an employee to work during agreed hours for a certain number of days in a week or month. In return, the employer pays the worker a salary or wage as agreed.


A worker is not required to work -

  • On public holidays approved by law;
  • On other days approved by government as public holidays as the situation dictates such as when the country wins the World Cup;
  • On any day declared by the employer as a non-working day;
  • On any approved vacation or annual leave;
  • When certified by a properly-qualified medical doctor as being unfit for work;
  • When there is a national calamity due to inclement weather such as when a hurricane or tornado strikes;
  • When a national crisis occurs;
  • When the organization is temporarily shut down due to industrial dispute.

Some employers allow employees to take time off due to the employee having worked extended hours. This often occurs in the case of shift workers. 

There are organizations who allow their employees to leave their work station for a couple of hours once in a while. This is to allow them to attend to personal or family problems. However, if proper control is not put in place, this can get out of control.

Absence from Duty: Types of Absence

  1. Absence for a long time without leave or reasonable excuse. As an employer you can initiate disciplinary action to terminate the service of the employee concerned. Some organizations have a policy whereby a worker who fails to turn up for work for a number of months is deemed dismissed. However, you need to remember that there are procedures governing this type of absence. If the rules and procedures are adhered to, the termination will take effect.
  2. Absence for a few days without leave or reasonable excuse. If the absence is more than three days, it can result in termination of service. Some organizations consider absence of less than three days as also being serious misconduct. However, if there is an acceptable reason for the absence, the employee may escape dismissal from service.
  3. Absence for a few hours. This is also a serious misconduct if there is no acceptable reason for the absence. Can you imagine the havoc, the great problems caused if the organization is providing real time service to members of the general public or it is responsible for the security of the country?
  4. Failure to report for duty on time. You can issue show cause letter in this case, too. If the worker continues to behave like this for a number of times even after being cautioned, you can initiate dismissal proceedings.
  5. Leaving work station unattended during office hours without any prior approval. This is also serious misconduct. What will happen if a factory worker suddenly decides to leave his task? You can issue a show cause letter.
  6. Going home before time. Every employee is required to stay put at his or her place of work until the agreed time to go home. If this occurs very often, you can issue show cause letter.

In all types of absence - may include the absent worker who is untraceable - you must issue a show cause letter. Counseling is a necessary part of disciplinary rules and regulation.

Failure to take Action
If you fail to take prompt action whenever an employee misbehave such as when an employee is absent from duty, you will find that your position of authority is weakened.

Where you could have initiated disciplinary proceedings to terminate the employee's service, by condoning the wrong-doing for a long time, you are prevented from taking further action.

If you condone employees' continued misconducts or wrong behavior, you are deemed to have implied that you allow these shortcomings. In such cases, you can only give them further counseling.

What you can do is that the next time the same person commits similar misconducts, take immediate action. Issue the show cause letter after verifying the misconduct.

Applicable Laws on Absence from Duty

Familiarise yourself with existing policies, rules and procedures on employees' misconduct such as those relating to absence from duty.

Get to know all applicable legislation on employee misconducts including absence.

And take due care in every disciplinary case. Seek legal advice when doubtful. This is important as the law is constantly changing.


Note:

Absence from a scheduled training program without reasonable excuse is also a misconduct.






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