What Is Job Abandonment?

What Happens If an Employee Doesn't Show Up for Work?

A woman is signing to show receipt of a certified letter after she became guilty of job abandonment.
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

Job abandonment occurs when an employee fails to show up as expected at work on consecutive days without notifying their supervisor (no call, no show) or requesting time off. The number of days missed before considered resignation by job abandonment vary by organization but is most frequently three days.

The employee's failure to show up for work also includes a failure to communicate with his or her manager or supervisor about a reason for missing work.

The employee also didn’t request time off or to use his or her paid or unpaid leave. The employee just didn't come to work for no known reason.

When an employee fails to show up for work, the first step is for the supervisor or manager to try to reach the employee via phone, cell, email, text or by whatever means they are used to communicating with the employee. Sometimes, a rational reason for the absences is obtained. Sometimes an employee just did not understand all of their options.

You also need to offer Family and Medical Leave Act information just in case the problem is an illness. Additionally, I recommend offering short term leave of absence and short term disability insurance information so that the employee understands all of the options available in case of a medical condition.

Employee Handbook

Employers are advised to clearly spell out a policy in their employee handbooks that states the number of days missed before the absence is considered to be resignation by job abandonment.

 Since this is not covered by most state laws, although some practices surrounding the interpretation of job abandonment do exist in different states, the clear policy is in the best interest of employers. You can avoid legal difficulties later by having, implementing, and enforcing a fair policy that gives reasonable notice to the employee of the impending termination.

You will also want your policy to spell out several scenarios that you would consider job abandonment. For example, you can consider a person on an unpaid or paid leave who fails to return to work for three days following the end date of the leave to have abandoned their job. In a second example, you can consider an employee who has been absent for two days without filing short term disability or FMLA paperwork to have abandoned his or her job.

Notifying the Employee

By notice, when an employee fails to show up or notify the manager or supervisor of the reasons for the absences, you are advised to send the employee a registered letter that requires a signature upon delivery.

The letter needs to state that you will terminate employment five business days following the employee’s receipt of the letter if you do not hear from him or her with a reasonable and acceptable explanation for the absences.

But, if the employee won't communicate or respond, as is often the case with job abandonment, you need to follow your company policies. Otherwise, you are setting a precedent for cases in the future.

Unemployment Compensation

Employers designate the termination as a voluntary quit to prevent the employee from collecting unemployment compensation.

This is because an employee who voluntarily quits his or her job may only collect unemployment benefits if the quit was due to a good cause, as determined by the unemployment office. Good causes are frequently contested by employers in a voluntary quit and in discharge through job abandonment.

Bottom Line for the Employer?

  • Try to reach the employee to provide options and to discuss what is going on.
  • Provide all medical paperwork for FMLA application, short term disability, and so forth.
  • Offer a short term unpaid leave if you wish. Recognize that you are setting a precedent.
  • Notify the employee of the actions you will take regarding termination and provide five business days for a response.
  • Send each of these items through a method that require a signature on the receiving end.

Please care about your employees, but rest assured that an employee who fails to attend work is damaging the ability of other employees to do their jobs. It damages your ability to operate your business.


Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.

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