Desertion: follow the correct procedure

Employers are often faced with employees who simply stay away from work. The question then, is how to deal with it. If an employee does not report for work, the employer has an obligation to take all reasonable steps to determine why the employee is absent.


The employer’s first step is to contact the employee on all numbers available. If the employee does not answer, attempt to contact the employee again at a later stage.  If this remains unsuccessful, send the employee a message informing him that he is absent without permission, and if his absence is due to an illness, he must confirm this as soon as possible.

The second step

The second step is to inform the employee that he must report back for work as he is absent without permission and/or a valid reason. Provide the employee with a specific date and time when he must report back. Generally, the date will be the next business day.


If the employee still does not report for work, and no communication is received regarding his absence, contact the employee again to warn him that he is still absent without permission and/or a valid reason.

Have you had a case of desertion?


An ultimatum

If the employee is absent for five consecutive days/shifts, send the employee an ultimatum with the following information:


  • the date from when he is absent without permission and/or a valid reason;
  • that he is absent for five consecutive days/shifts, which is an indication of his desertion with no intention of returning to work;
  • that the employee is given an ultimatum to return to work;
  • specified date and time at which the employee must report back for work;
  • a warning that further disciplinary action may be taken, which includes a disciplinary hearing and possible dismissal.

NOTICE of hearing

If the employee does not comply with the ultimatum, and still does not report back for work, serve the employee with a notice of disciplinary hearing. The notice can be served by hand, email or electronic message (“SMS” or “WhatsApp”). The notice must also specifically warn the employee that the hearing may continue in his absence if he chooses not to attend.


The general rules regarding a disciplinary hearing are valid and must still be followed, even if an employee fails to attend the hearing. If the employee is found guilty of desertion during the disciplinary hearing, this can lead to his immediate dismissal.

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