Unexplained and/or unexpected absence from work must be pro-actively managed by the department. Action is needed from the first day that the staff member fails to attend work without notifying their absence in line with the standard procedures, as outlined in Section 4 of the staff handbooks.
The line manager, the Departmental Administrator (or equivalent), or other appropriate HR personnel (eg departmental HR Officer) must attempt to contact the absent staff member as soon as it is evident that their absence is unusual, ie they are not just late for work. This can be done by calling their home and/or mobile numbers, or sending an email to their personal email account. A few attempts (normally at least three) should be made to contact the absent staff member on the first day. Enquiries should also be made to establish whether a message has been left with any colleagues within the department (including any front of house staff), in relation to the absence. Where such attempts prove unsuccessful by the end of the first day of absence at the latest, the employee’s nominated next of kin should be contacted. It may be appropriate to make contact with the next of kin earlier in the day. Departments should use their judgement in relation to the timescales for escalating action, including escalating to external services such as the police, taking into account what is known about the individual’s circumstances, for example if the individual is known to live alone or has a known health condition.
A brief file note of the efforts to contact the absent staff member and/or their next of kin should be made, to include the date, time, method and outcome, eg “phoned personal mobile on [date] at [time] and left a voicemail”.
If after numerous attempts, the department cannot make contact with the absent staff member or with their next of kin by the second day of absence at the latest, other known contacts should be considered to help establish that the absent staff member is safe. Where practicably possible, it may also be appropriate for someone within the department to visit the absent employee’s home. Departments should give careful consideration to who that individual should be, for example, a colleague with whom the absent staff member is close or a colleague that may live nearby might be the most appropriate nominees. If the department does not know of any other appropriate contacts for the individual, and especially if the individual has a good record of attendance, the department may consider contacting the police to report the person as missing. Prior to taking such action, the Departmental Administrator should discuss the situation with the relevant HR Business Partner.
Unplanned absence will be treated as unauthorised in cases where it is established that the individual is safe and is not incapacitated, but failed to follow the University’s usual reporting requirements, whether due to sickness or otherwise. If and when the individual returns to work, the absence must be discussed, and the reasons for the absence should be explored with them. However, failure to provide a genuine reason for not reporting absence may lead to disciplinary proceedings. Each case will need to be assessed on its merits, and before any action is taken the Departmental Administrator should discuss the case with the appropriate HR Business Partner.
Where it is established that the individual is safe but will not be returning to work the Departmental Administrator (or equivalent) should liaise with their HR Business Partner to establish the most appropriate process to follow.
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