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How to Deal with Employee Abandonment

Everyone understands the process they must undergo if they want to leave their current place of employment: create a written letter of resignation and abide by the 30-day notice period. A large majority of employees understand this process and abide by it because of the severe consequences that come with job abandonment. Someone who abandons their employment will take a big hit to his or her reputation. But if someone decides to risk it and abandons his or her job, the employers must deal with the mess. How does one handle employee abandonment? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between AWOL and Abandonment?

First, we must clearly define the difference between AWOL and abandonment. “AWOL” is short for “Absent without Leave”. It refers to any scenario wherein an employee misses work without properly informing or requesting leave from their employer. 

An employee is only AWOL for as long as he or she either has a justifiable reason for the absence OR has no clear intent to sever the employer-employee relationship. 

As the employer, it’s important to investigate the matter before writing off the employee as having abandoned their work. There are many justifiable reasons as to why an employee might go AWOL, such as a family emergency or health emergency. It is then up to your judgment whether or not to terminate the employee due to AWOL or allow them to keep working. However, if this is the case, employee abandonment would no longer be a valid reason for termination. Take note as well that in our jurisdiction, termination or dismissal based on just causes such as AWOL is considered as a “supreme penalty” for erring employees and may generally only be imposed upon the employee as a final measure. 

On the other hand, an employee who abandons his or her job would act as if he or she is not part of the company at all. 

What are the elements of abandonment?

For an employee to be accused of job abandonment, two factors must be in play.

  1. He or she must continuously fail to report to work without valid or justifiable reason.

Again, if the employee has a valid reason, there’s a chance that he or she has no intention to abandon his or her work. A personal emergency in which the employee is in no state to work is a good example of a valid reason. Instead, he or she must show an unjustified and deliberate refusal to work in his or her current workplace again.

  1. There must be a clear intent to sever the employer-employee relationship.

One can prove an employee’s intent to sever the employer-employee relationship through his or her overt acts. This act should clearly show the employee’s intent to never return to his or her job. An example of such an overt act is if the employee enters a new workplace without informing the company he or she had abandoned. Another example is if the employee ignores any attempts of communication through several different mediums from any member of the workplace.

How do you process a termination for abandonment of work? 

If you are going to terminate an employment for abandonment of work, you must be able to provide sufficient evidence.

Before you even begin the termination process, do everything you can to contact your employee through all available means. Use whichever methods of communication that you have on file, such as their phone number, email address, employee communication channels, or written letter sent to their last recorded home address. You can also reach out to their emergency contact if all else fails. Make sure that you keep a log of all the times you attempted communication with the employee, including date, time, and medium of communication.

If the employee ignores all of your attempts, you can use your logs as evidence of the employee’s unwillingness to continue working. These will support the just cause for the employer to terminate the employee due to abandonment.

Section (b), Art. 297 of the Philippine Labor Code provides that an employee may be terminated due to gross and habitual neglect of his duties.

Since you have already proven that such ground for termination exists, you must then follow due process requirements for terminating an employee for just causes, in accordance with the Philippine Labor Code. These steps are as follows:

  1. Send a Notice to Explain (NTE) to the employee. The NTE shall outline the cause for termination in accordance with Art. 297 of the Philippine Labor Code as well as violations of company policy, a list of instances to prove said cause, and a request for a written explanation from the employee.
  2. Attend the Administrative Hearing Process. This hearing allows the employee to defend himself/herself from the employer’s charges. He or she can to bring counsel to the hearing. Do note, however, that an administrative hearing is not always necessary and may only be mandatory in certain instances, such as when administrative hearings as part of due process has already been codified in company policy, or when the company has consistently practiced undertaking administrative hearings as part of its due process procedures. Thus, if undertaking administrative hearings neither forms part of company policy nor is it consistently practiced by the company, sending the NTE that gives the employee the chance to answer the allegations against him or her is sufficient for compliance to the due process requirement under the law.
  3. If it is found that the employee should be terminated under Just Cause, you must then send him or her the Notice of Termination. Similar to the NTE, the Notice of Termination should outline the cause of termination and a list of instances of said violation. 

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