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Unexpected Nonattendance

The inquest into the death of M16 spy, Gareth Williams is underway. It is a very sad case of a young man who was found dead in his home, his body curled-up in a holdall.

Mr Williams was working for M16 on a three year secondment working as a cipher and codes expert. Following a period of annual leave Mr Williams did not return to work as expected. Alarm bells were raised when he failed to attend a meeting, which was out of character. His body was discovered in his flat.

It is not uncommon for employees to fail to return to work following a period of annual leave. Sometimes employees phone in sick or request an additional days’ leave, for example, because their flight home is delayed. However, sometimes, like in this case, we don’t hear anything.

When this happens we recommend trying to contact the employee immediately on the first day which he or she was due back at work in case something is wrong.

It is important to ensure that you have emergency contact details for all of your employees so that if you cannot get hold of the employee you can contact a close friend or family member to find out if the employee is ok.

In many of the cases which we deal with, employees who don’t turn up for work fail to attend not because of an emergency but simply because they chose not to come to work. In these situations we are dealing with unauthorised absence which is a disciplinary matter.

Whatever the circumstances, we should always try to contact the individual and if we get no response contact his or her emergency contacts and investigate what has happened.

It is important to keep a note of when you have tried to contact the individual and emergency contact(s) and any responses you may have received. These notes will form part of the evidence in the investigation report.

When senior employees don’t come into the office when expected we often assume they are working from home or have gone to an off-site client meeting which was arranged at short notice.

However, it is advisable to check the whereabouts of employees in case something has happened. Some employees regularly work by themselves, for example, sales executives who are field based or lorry drivers.

If you employ lone workers then you should establish a process for these individuals to report to a point of contact on a regular basis to confirm that they are ok.

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