How to deal with employees taking unauthorised time off

Employees are entitled to holidays and have the right to request leave. However, the employer is under no obligation to agree with the dates proposed. After a refusal by the employer, some employees decide to go ahead and take the holiday anyway. An unauthorised absence from work can be particularly harmful to small businesses where cover cannot always be arranged at such short notice.

It is advised that employers communicate holiday entitlement at the start of the holiday year, which should include the arrangements for bank holidays.

Employers should also set clear guidelines on how to book leave and communicate that the process for booking leave should be followed, before any travel arrangements are made. It should also be made clear that all holiday requests will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. This should help to manage employee expectations and limit the number who feel that they are forced to take a period of unauthorised absence from work.

What should UK employers do in the face of unauthorised leave?

Employers should aim to have a policy in place, in the first instance. The policy should clearly state that unauthorised annual leave may constitute a disciplinary offence, which could lead to dismissal. Firms who do not have internal HR resources can look to external advice to put such a policy in place.

If you suspect that an employee intends to undertake a period of unauthorised absence from work, you should hold a meeting with the employee to explain all possible consequences. Seek to also discuss alternative options for annual leave.

Upon noticing that an employee is absent, be sure to make all reasonable attempts to contact the employee before jumping to conclusions. An absence could be due to a personal emergency or ill health, so it’s important to treat the absence as a general one before concluding that the employee has taken an unauthorised absence from work.

Employers should discuss the matter with the employee in question upon his/her return, to ensure that you have all the information you need before deciding the next steps.

If you decide to begin disciplinary procedures, make sure these are followed correctly before imposing a sanction. It is extremely important that employers follow all steps, ensuring that procedures are followed consistently and the process is fair to all employees.

Any disciplinary action taken should be suitable appropriate for the behaviour of the employee and the situation. In worst cases, this could be related to gross misconduct and therefore, can be a motive for dismissal. However, employers should always carry out a fair and consistent investigation before jumping to the conclusion of ill intentions from the employee.

For further advice on unauthorised leave or help in creating an unauthorised absence policy, contact us.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment