Unauthorised absence

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There are many legitimate reasons for employee absence, which an employer is legally required to accept and accommodate, such as annual leave entitlement or sickness absence.

However, if an employee is absent without applying for leave and with no, or no adequate, reason, this is often called unauthorised absence or absence without leave: AWOL. As an employer, you’re entitled to do something about this.

Provided that you have taken reasonable steps to determine that these are not exceptional circumstances, e.g. a legitimate family emergency that genuinely prevented the employee from contacting you to alert you of the situation, we generally recommend that you treat absence without leave as a disciplinary matter.

(It used to be the case that an employer could assume an employee has resigned, and then confirm that resignation – that is no longer the advisable course of action.)

It’s therefore really important that you can evidence the absence is unauthorised. The materials we’ve provided you below will help you to do just that.

We recommend using our guides as your starting point and to set helpful context for the way in which the templates and other documents can be used. If you’re ever unsure about how to use any of our materials, just get in touch on the contact details below.


The content on elXtr has been prepared by LHS Solicitors. It’s intended as guidance only and not to be regarded as a substitute for consultation with one of our solicitors, since every case will ultimately turn on its own particular facts and circumstances. We recommend that you use our materials as your starting point and be aware that you sometimes have to follow a set procedure before taking any action, especially in an employment context. If you are in any doubt, we’d suggest that you get in touch with us and we’ll talk you through your options on how to get the right legal advice.