Legal absence



DESERTION refers to a situation where an employee has left the workplace and does not appear to have any intention of returning to work.


If an employee is absent, he is obligated to inform the employer of the reason and expected date of return. If an employee fails to do this, the employer is obligated to try contact the employee.


The employee should first try to contact the employee and record the method, date and time of each attempt. If the employer is successful, the employee should provide a valid reason for the absence and expected date of return.


If the employer is unable to contact the employee, a registered or hand-delivered letter should be served on the employee or a relative older than 16 at the employee’s place of residence. This letter should be in the form of an ultimatum asking for reasons for absence and warning her of the possible consequences of the desertion.


If the employee contacts the employer or returns to work the employer can hold an informal inquiry to determine if the reason is justified and consider if disciplinary action is required.


If the employee’s absence is not justified, the absence is unpaid and a warning or formal disciplinary hearing can be held for repeat offenders.


If the employee does not comply with the ultimatum letter, a second letter notifying the employee of the termination of his services should be issued in the same manner as the first.


Although the law is silent on the period, it is accepted that if an employee is absent for five days without communication or good reason, the employee can be considered to have deserted.The employee is entitled to be paid for any period worked, and to be paid for any leave that has accumulated.


Terri Stander is an independent labour law and human resources consultant and may be contacted on 078-397-3894 or e-mail


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