What is Unauthorised Absence? A Guide For Employers

employee absent

In this guide, we'll break down what constitutes an unauthorised absence; the potential effects on employee morale and productivity.

What is unauthorised absence?

An unauthorized absence is any occurrence where an employee fails to report to work as scheduled without providing valid notice or obtaining prior approval from their supervisor. This can include taking an unscheduled day off, arriving late, or leaving early from a shift.

Employees absent for more than three consecutive days — without prior approval or notification — are considered to have abandoned their job and may be legally terminated. Details of unauthorised absences are mostly written on the employment contract.

Example of unauthorized absence

Unauthorized absences can take on many forms, such as:

  • Missing a shift: When an employee fails to report to work without prior permission or notification.
  • Rescheduling shifts: This is when an employee requests a shift change without prior approvals
  • Taking unscheduled days off: This is when an employee takes time off without prior permission or notification.
  • Lateness: This is when an employee arrives late to work without providing sufficient notice.
  • Leaving early: This is when an employee leaves work early without prior permission.

All these types of Absence constitutes unauthorised absence.

Common causes of unauthorised absence

There are a variety of factors that can lead to unauthorised absence from work, such as:

  • Lack of motivation: If employees lack the motivation to come to work, they may be more likely to miss shifts or arrive late.

  • Unfavorable working conditions: Unfavorable working conditions can lead to an employee feeling inadequate, unsupported, or overwhelmed at work.

  • Personal illness: Health issues can prevent an employee from coming to work, and sometimes they may not be able to give prior notice.

  • Financial difficulties: Financial issues can put immense stress on an employee, making it difficult to be productive in their job.

Wilful unauthorised absence is also a type where it's just the employee's will.

Implication of unauthorised absence

Unauthorized absence can have the following implications.

  • Reduce productivity: Unauthorized absences can hurt morale and productivity in the workplace. When an employee needs to show up with notice, it puts additional strain on other team members who may be expected to pick up the slack.

  • Poor customer service: Unauthorized absences can lead to better customer service, decreased production, and improved quality of work.

  • Additional costs: It can also result in additional costs for the company if they are required to hire a temporary replacement or pay overtime wages.

Related: Navigating Temporary Employment: Exploring the Pros and Cons

Issues that arise from unauthorised absence

Here are some issues:

  • Conflicts between employer and employee: The employer may feel that their trust has been broken, while the employee may feel that they are unfairly being reprimanded or disciplined without proper reason.

  • Termination of employee: If the absenteeism continues over a long period, it could potentially lead to termination of the employee.

Useful Read: Crafting a Contract Termination Letter: Guidelines and Sample Template

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Managing unauthorised absence

When dealing with unauthorized absences, it's important to make sure you handle the situation correctly and consistently.

Here are some reasonable attempts you should take to manage unauthorised absence:

Investigate the reason

Before taking action, it's important to investigate the cause of the absence. You should also see if any underlying issues could be causing the employee to miss work.

Address the issue

Once you've identified the cause of the absence, it's important to address the issue directly with the employee. Ensure they understand that unauthorized absences are not tolerated and could lead to disciplinary action or termination.

Address the penalties in your disciplinary hearing policy

Ensure you know your company's policies and procedures on unauthorized absences. This will ensure that all employees understand the potential consequences of missing work without prior approval or notice.

Review your attendance procedure

You should also review your attendance procedure to ensure it is up-to-date and communicated to all employees. Make sure that your procedure includes a clear policy on absences without prior approval or notification and the potential consequences of such absences.

Document all unauthorised absences

Ensure all unauthorized absences are documented clearly and objectively. This will help protect you if any legal issues arise in the future.

Take disciplinary action

If an employee continues to be absent without prior approval or notification, it may be necessary to take disciplinary action. This could include a verbal or written warning, Suspension, or termination, depending on the severity of the situation.

Keep notes

Documenting any conversations or disciplinary actions about absences is a good practice. This could be important if an issue is escalated in the future.

Send warnings before strict actions

It's important to give employees a chance to rectify the issue before taking strict action. A warning letter or verbal reminder may be enough.

Consult with HR

Before taking any disciplinary action, it's important to consult with your HR department to ensure that you are following the correct process and to be sure of it.

Set clear expectations

Ensure all employees know the attendance policy and expectations. This can help ensure that any absences are minimized and addressed correctly in the future.

Suggest solutions

If you identify any underlying issues or stressors related to an employee's absence, try to work with the employee to come up with solutions. This could include flexible working arrangements, workplace accommodations, or access to additional resources.

Arrange mental health awareness seminars

It can be beneficial to arrange seminars or workshops on mental health awareness for your team. This can help create a safe space for employees to discuss any issues and help them feel comfortable speaking up.

Employees should be called after returning to work

It's important to call employees who have been absent to check in and see how they are doing. This will let them know that you care and are willing to help if they need it.

Take breaks

Promoting a healthy work/life balance and encouraging employees to take regular breaks is important. This can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout, which can lead to absences.

Offer support in difficult times

It can be beneficial to offer additional support when things get tough. Whether offering flexible working arrangements or connecting them with resources, this can help prevent future absences.

These steps ensure that unauthorized absences are dealt with fairly and consistently within your workplace.

Disciplinary outcomes for unauthorised absences

Here are some outcomes of disciplinary policy:

  • Verbal warning letter - A verbal warning should be issued to the employee, clearly stating that their behavior is unacceptable.

  • Written warnings - A written warning should then be issued, outlining the consequences of further absences.

  • Suspension - After multiple disciplinary warningsthe employer should take a more serious disciplinary sanction like suspension if the employee has exhibited multiple misbehaviors and continues taking unauthorised absence.

How does absence policy help to deal with unauthorised absence?

Having a clear and comprehensive absence policy in place can help to manage unauthorized absences more effectively.

A good policy should cater to the following points:

  • Company's expectations
  • The consequences of unauthorized absences
  • Any support that is available to employees.
  • To whom employee should report for authorized absence
  • In what circumstances the Employee needs to provide a sick note?
  • How many unauthorized absence are allowed
  • Disciplinary consequences for unauthorized absences
  • A valid reason to apply for leave.

These steps ensure that unauthorized absences are dealt with fairly and consistently within your workplace. This will help to ensure a positive and productive work environment for all.


Dealing with unauthorized absences effectively should be a priority for any organization. Unauthorized absences create problems across many areas, from the financial to the personnel.

An effective absenteeism policy instituted and equitably followed by management provides employees with added incentives to take measures to reduce unlawful absences.

Doing this can improve attendance performance, workplace morale, and productivity and save costs associated with replacing absent staff members.

It also sets out clearly how absence should be managed, which avoids misunderstandings between staff and management.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • To authorize your absence, you should emergency contact your supervisor or manager and provide a valid reason for your Absence so that the company can make arrangements.

  • Yes, unauthorized absence can be viewed as gross misconduct, and your employer may take disciplinary action if you are absent without a valid reason.

Absence Management
Topic: Absence
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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