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Empty Desk Syndrome

By October 25, 2022February 21st, 2023No Comments

What is Empty Desk Syndrome?

Employers are currently facing an unusual time, with employees who seem to be coming and going like the wind. Why would a good employee fail to show up for work unannounced, or why would a job candidate who joyfully accepted a job with your organization not show up on their first day without notice?

Job abandonment or ghosting is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in today’s tight job market. Job abandonment is when an employee does not report to work as scheduled and has no intention of returning to the job but does not notify the employer of their intention to quit. This is one of several talent management challenges being delt with in the post-pandemic workplace. Other challenges include employees not returning to the workplace, resigning from long-term jobs, and new hires not showing up on their first day. The current work environment is a dream for employees as there are great jobs to choose from with higher salaries and benefits. Employees now carefully consider life/work balance when considering employment. The tradition of being loyal an employee and working at the same job for many years is no longer in vogue.

Additionally, no-call/no-shows are more prevalent than ever with current and newly hired employees. A no-call/no-show is when an employee is absent from work on consecutive days without proper approval or notification of their supervisor or Human Resources (HR). Many employers require a notice of absenteeism at least sixty (60) minutes before the scheduled work shift.

Unless an employee is on a pre-approved leave of absence, failing to report to work in a timely fashion and failing to provide sufficient information or a medical slip justifying an absence from work for consecutive days is deemed job abandonment.

In the case of an emergency or extenuating circumstances that make it impossible for an employee to provide notice, employers should allow time for employees to provide documentation to support their absence. Caution is recommended in these instances, especially in the case of a medical or protected reason for a leave of absence or tardiness. For example, employees may have legal protection when hospitalized, incarcerated, or in a location without cell service. Also, the employer must ensure that the employee did not leave a message with another supervisor who did not share the information.

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) should also be a consideration, as this may pose a problem regarding potential job abandonment. Let’s not forget that there may be reasonable accommodations to consider.

Questions to ask yourself if a candidate ghosts you

Consider these critical questions when determining the next steps with a no-call/no-show.

  • Did the employee try to contact another supervisor?
  • Have there been three (3) consecutive absences without notice?
  • Is the employee in question under current disciplinary action?
  • Is the employee on approved or protected leave or just returning from a leave?
  • Is a reasonable accommodation in place that may provide flexibility to the employee in question?
  • Have you investigated the possibility of an emergency or extenuating circumstance that may have prevented the employee from contacting their supervisor or Human Resources?

Although a no-call/no-show can often be a surrendering of one’s job, employers should proceed with caution on job abandonment. The risk could be a claim of wrongful termination. Therefore, employers should ensure a thorough investigation and not act too quickly to assume a resignation or move to terminate someone’s employment. Additionally, it is wise to include job abandonment terms in your employee handbook and personnel policies.

501 members and subscribers have unlimited access to HR Services. Contact us any time regarding job abandonment, sample policies and procedures or any other HR challenge you may be facing.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

(Image by Thanyakij-12 from Freepik.)

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