What Is Job Abandonment?

Definition & Examples of Job Abandonment

Job abandonment

Theresa Chiechi / The Balance

Job abandonment occurs when an employee fails to show up as expected at work on consecutive days without notifying their supervisor or requesting the time off in advance. The prolonged absence is considered a resignation.

Review how job abandonment works and alternatives to failing to go to work.

What Is Job Abandonment?

Job abandonment occurs when an organization's policy states that any prolonged absence is considered a resignation if the employee fails to have contact with their manager or the human resources department.

The exact definition of job abandonment varies by the organization, but it most frequently consists of three consecutive workdays during which an employee fails to show up for work. If you're an employee, it's best to check your organization's policy in your employee handbook or discuss your circumstances with your supervisor or human resources before you stop working.

How Job Abandonment Works

Job abandonment is failing to show up for work and failing to communicate with a supervisor about a reason for missing work. It also means they didn’t request time off or to use their paid or unpaid leave. This is also referred to as a "no call, no show."

Job abandonment occurs for many reasons. The most common reasons include:

  • The employee was too embarrassed and afraid to quit in person.
  • The employee was offered more hours at their second job so they abandoned their first job and forgot to call.
  • The employee had an unexpected family emergency and the person they counted on to call the company didn't do so. In this case, the employer would typically reinstate the employee.

Sometimes an employee just didn't understand all of their options when they needed to miss work. In other instances, the employer, unfortunately, discovers that the employee is missing work due to sudden death or illness.

Job abandonment is typically spelled out in company policies and the employee is notified about the job abandonment.

When an employee fails to show up for work, the first step is for the supervisor to try to reach the employee via phone, email, or text.

Company Policies

It's best to clearly spell out a policy in an employee handbook that states the number of days missed before the absence is considered a 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—a clear policy is in the best interest of employers.

The policy should spell out several scenarios that would be considered job abandonment. For example, a person on an unpaid or paid leave who fails to return to work for three days following the leave's end date to have abandoned their job.

The policy could also include that an employee who has been absent for three days without filing short-term disability or Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork to have abandoned their job.

As a final example, an hourly employee who fails to clock in at the job site for three straight days without calling the supervisor or requesting the time off in advance would fall under job abandonment.

Employee Notification

When an employee fails to show up or notify a supervisor of the reason for the absences, employers should send the employee a registered letter that requires a signature upon delivery.

The letter should state that the employer will terminate employment in five business days following the employee’s receipt of the letter if the employee doesn't make contact with a reasonable and acceptable explanation for the absences. The letter should be in line with the organization's policies on job abandonment.

Alternatives to Job Abandonment

In some cases, the employee may not be abandoning their job. Human resources should offer FMLA information just in case the problem is an illness. Human resources staff should also offer a 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.

Depending on the circumstances, employers may want to be flexible with their employees, but they should keep in mind that their actions could set a precedent.

Key Takeaways

  • Job abandonment occurs when an employee fails to show up at work on consecutive days without notifying their supervisor or requesting the time off. 
  • The exact definition of job abandonment varies by organization. 
  • Job abandonment happens for many reasons. 
  • Job abandonment policies should be spelled out in the employee handbook. 
  • Employees should be notified of intent to terminate and employers should provide alternatives in case of a medical emergency. 

Article Sources

  1. SHRM. "What Is Considered Job Abandonment?" Accessed June 22, 2020.