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Abandonment occurs when the employer is forced to assume that the employee has resigned because the employee has been absent for an extended period without authorisation or good reason. This assumption must not be made without sufficient information and facts.
Abandonment is not disciplinary action. Any punitive action should be via the organisation’s discipline policy.
Where the reason(s) for the employee’s absence are known to the employer, the situation is usually not one of abandonment.
Abandonment of employment is the termination of an employee’s employment by the operation of a contractual clause. It may be invoked by the employer when an employee’s prolonged and unauthorised absence is unexplained.
An abandonment clause of an employment agreement does not release the employer from their obligation to attempt to find out the employee’s whereabouts and their intentions in relation to their employment. The employer is not entitled to simply ‘cross the employee off the books’ after the specified time has elapsed, without making sufficient attempts to find out the employee’s whereabouts.
An effective ‘abandonment of employment’ clause, complemented by relevant internal policies, will ensure that employers and employees mutually understand their obligations. A policy should set out how an abandonment situation should be managed.
Failing to act in good faith, or acting in a manner that appears to be contrary to good faith, may ultimately lead to a claim that the employee was unjustifiably dismissed.
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