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How to Handle Job Abandonment

July 20, 2021
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
July 20, 2021 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

How to Handle Job Abandonment 

Whether you own a local toy store, bakery, or restaurant, you know that job abandonment is stressful for your bottom line. It’s an administrative headache that puts excess pressure on both you and your remaining employees.

Luckily, there are ways to mitigate it and prevent further absenteeism. Read on to learn more about the job abandonment consequences and how to avoid this costly casualty.

What Is Job Abandonment? 

Job abandonment refers to an instance where an employee misses multiple days of work without providing notice or indicating if they will return. The consequences are pretty clear—you’ll be short-staffed and have to give up precious time contacting the employee about the unexplained absence and eventually looking for a new hire. 

What leads to job abandonment? There are any number of reasons, such as:

  • Afraid to quit so they abandon the job instead
  • Acquired a second job
  • Found new opportunities 
  • Have a medical or personal emergency

Your sympathy might be short-lived since you’re the one who has to deal with the job abandonment consequences, but don’t act without understanding the entire situation of your employee’s absence. Whether an employee has a true emergency or is simply irresponsible, it’s important that you understand your rights and responsibility as an employer.

Job abandonment falls under the category of voluntary job abandonment. What does that mean?

  • Voluntary Job Abandonment – With voluntary job abandonment, an employee chooses to resign.

  • Involuntary Job Abandonment – With involuntary job abandonment, an employee is fired or laid off.  

Employers might be surprised to learn job abandonment falls under the category of voluntary job abandonment. Because employees are not always able to provide notice (as with a medical or personal emergency), employers should try to the best of their ability to contact the employee and determine the reason behind their absence. Why? Failure to do so creates liability, and you can end up on the wrong side of wrongful termination of employment claims.

Create a Job Abandonment Policy

To combat job abandonment, be proactive and create a comprehensive job abandonment policy. This can be included in an employee handbook, outlining the responsibilities for both you as the employer and your employees. Highlight how many consecutive days an employee can have before you will consider them to have voluntarily resigned.

Additionally, include the following in your job abandonment policy:

Expectations for Leave 

The main question you need to answer: What are your expectations for your employees with regards to notification of an absence? Does it depend on the length of an absence? What communication method should they use?

You will also need to state the number of consecutive days an employee can miss without notice before you consider them to be voluntarily terminated.

Disciplinary Consequences 

Next, you will need to outline the disciplinary action you will take against employees who fail to provide notice of their absence. Explicitly state that their continued absence will be grounds for voluntary termination.

Alternative Communication

Establish alternative communication channels should an employee not be able to notify you of their absence. Allow them to provide a family member or friend who can contact you on their behalf or who you can contact.

Final Decision

Establish the basis for your final decision regarding their termination. You should state that you will consider the employee’s explanation for their absence. What criteria will you use to make your final decision? Will you consult the employee’s performance record and previous absences?

By prioritizing clear and transparent communication around job abandonment, you can ensure you and your employees are aligned around responsibilities and expectations.

What to Do When You Lose Contact with an Employee

You’ve been proactive. You’ve created a job abandonment policy, but now an employee has disappeared on you. What now? Well, there are few steps you can employ:

  1. Contact the employee – First things first, you should try to contact your employee by phone, email, text, or any other means. Ideally, the employee will respond and provide an explanation and their future plans.
  2. Be calm – If you can’t contact the employee, don’t immediately terminate them. Offer the employee a little grace to provide an explanation and protect yourself from wrongful termination claims. If an employee frequently no-shows, notify them of the consequences if they continue so that you can terminate them in a timely manner.
  3. Complete the employee’s payments – Regardless of the employee’s conduct, you cannot withhold their final paycheck, even as a tool to force the employee to return company property. Pay the employee for any remaining hours, overtime, or commissions that they have completed.
  4. Prioritize consistency – Enforce your absenteeism equally for all employees. Being consistent and fair will keep employees happy and create a positive company culture. Inconsistency could also reflect badly should an employee make a wrongful termination claim against you.

How to Prevent Job Abandonment

The best job abandonment policy is proactive prevention. Employee retention offers a range of benefits, including improving productivity and reducing training and recruiting costs. Follow these tips to reduce job abandonment in the first place.

Performance Reviews

Believe it or not, performance reviews are for the benefit of both you and your employees. They prevent future job abandonment by clearly outlining expectations and stopping little problems like scheduling issues from growing into big problems like job abandonment.

Schedule periodic performance reviews and highlight examples of both good and bad behavior for your employees to use as a guide for future growth. Providing feedback can also be a welcome challenge for ambitious employees who grow bored easily.

How often should you have performance reviews? It depends on your company and needs, but every three months is a happy medium.

Employee Surveys

Give your employees the opportunity to provide you feedback as well through company surveys. Allow employees to submit truly anonymous surveys if they’d like and create an action plan to address the feedback you receive. Present this plan to your employees so they can feel respected and confident that you are committed to building a good company culture and responding to their concerns.

Leave Policies

Often, job abandonment can be traced back to your company’s leave policies. Employees are less likely to abandon their job if they have access to the time off they need to stay healthy and happy. Consider the following policies:

  • Vacation Policy – Offer employees a competitive vacation policy so that they can take leisure breaks with friends and family and prevent burnout. This can help avoid job abandonment because it can prevent employees from looking for a new position with better vacation benefits. Paid time off (PTO) is ideal, but you can also offer unpaid leave or even a mix—depending on your needs and bottom line. It worked for Raygun, a small clothing and design shop that expanded its PTO policy to help accommodate the needs of employees who needed to take time off to address health or family crises. 
  • Medical Leave-of-Absence Policy – Establish a medical leave-of-absence policy, either paid or unpaid, that allows employees to take time off for medical emergencies. This is a great way to demonstrate that you care for your employee’s health and well-being and boost morale.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ICR Staffing Services recommends familiarizing yourself and your employees with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Some employees will qualify for a short-term leave of absence and short-term disability insurance, depending on their emergency situation. It’s important that everyone understands their rights so that employees can access these funds and so that you do not wrongfully terminate a team member and face legal consequences.

Lead by Example

One method of enforcing your job abandonment policy to set an example for other employees. You can also lead by example by providing leniency to employees with valid explanations so that all your employees know they can turn to you in times of hardship, rather than dropping all communication and not showing up to work.

Company Culture

Build a positive company culture by supporting employee’s strengths. Take time to get to know each employee and learn how you can help them succeed. Do they work better during morning shifts? Do they excel with customer-facing work? How do they like to receive feedback or be assigned tasks? Create a mutually beneficial open line of communication between you and your employees. Many employees will also respond well to growth opportunities so they can stay with your company long-term.

Scheduling Practices

Another common cause of job abandonment? Bad scheduling practices. Consider an employee who needs to pick their kids up from school but is constantly being scheduled for afternoon shifts. You can imagine that even if this employee wanted to stay, they would have to prioritize their family. A lack of flexibility on the part of their employer could also make them feel devalued and disrespected.

What about an employee facing financial hardship who is only being scheduled ten hours a week? They will likely need to pick up a second job. This second job could begin to conflict with their schedule or just be a better opportunity, leading to job abandonment.

Request employee’s scheduling preferences, and do your best to honor them. If you can, give the employees a fair and reasonable explanation of why you are rejecting their request. Companies like Seer Interactive created flexible scheduling expectations so that workers could do their best according to their needs. The result? Increased productivity and a positive company culture.  

Connect with Local Talent and New Customers

Certain industries such as retail and food service may always have higher employee turnover and rates of job abandonment. It’s an unfortunate cost of doing business. However, you can decrease the incidence of this issue in three key ways:

  • Create a job abandonment policy
  • Communicate with employees
  • Establish preventive measures  

Over time, you’ll hopefully develop a stronger company culture and lower rates of absenteeism. 

If you’re looking for new talent to join your team, who’s better than your neighbors — fellow stakeholders in your community. Claim your free Nextdoor Business Page and start making those connections. 


Additional sources: 

Martina Markovska. Job Abandonment: What to Do When Employees Ghost You (Sample Policy). 

Indeed. What Is Job Abandonment? (With Tips for Creating a Job Abandonment Policy). 

Deputy. Job Abandonment: What is it, and How Should You Handle it? 

Sling. Job Abandonment: What To Do Before Employees Disappear. 

ICR. Staffing Resources. How to Prevent Job Abandonment. 


Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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