What Happens If You Cant Contact An Employee?

What happens if you can not contact an employee? this can be a very difficult issue for employers to deal with, as if an employee has not updated their contact details, nor have they informed their manager of any change of address. This is especially difficult if the employee is currently involved in an absence or disciplinary process.

A recent case has provided some clarity on this issue, where the employee has refused to engage in the process and has not received any of the correspondence that the employer has sent them.

 In the case of Humphreys -v- Tesco Ireland Limited (UD1712/2010) the employee was out sick and the Company had tried to contact him to engage with him on a potential return to work, however they were unable to contact him and he had not responded to any of the correspondence they had sent to him.  As a result the Company had no option but to terminate his employment as he had “completely disengaged” from the process.

The employe argued that he did not receive the letters as he had gone to the UK to receive treatment for an injury.  Upon returning he found the correspondence sent by the Employer advising of his termination of employment, and subsequently claimed for unfair dismissal.

The Tribunal noted int heir decision that “the claimant [employee] should have know that if he failed to notify the respondent [employer] that he was not living at his normal address and he was actually having treatment in England that he cannot hold the company accountable for the fact that he did not receive letters relating to his employment. He cannot use his failure to notify the respondent of this as an excuse for his employment coming to an end. The claimant should have made it a priority to contact the personnel manager; it was not sufficient to leave messages with other employees of the respondent that he was trying to contact her. He should have written to her, by registered post if necessary, that he was having difficulty contacting her. “

This gives some clarity to what is expected in such circumstances, and is a welcome help to employers trying to deal with employees who may be off sick. It does not however remove the liability on employers to try all means necessary to contact the employee prior to any termination of employment, and only when all avenues have been exhausted should the option to terminate be utilised.

It is however very useful for employers to know what is expected of them and how they can approach these issues.



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Wednesday, 17 July 2019
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