Absentee Chefs: What to do if your chef goes AWOL

Absentee Chefs: What to do if your chef goes AWOL

Absentee chefs can cause chaos in the kitchen and let down your business reputation. Use our Quick Guide to dealing with AWOL chefs, and improve your kitchen management too.

Though it’s a recipe you’ll hope never to use, the hospitality reality demands that you have the ingredients to efficiently deal with AWOL chefs. The potential consequences, not to mention the sheer inconvenience, make it imperative to manage unauthorised long and short-term absences in a competent manner.

With this handy guide to dealing with AWOL chefs, you can follow each required step to help maintain smooth consistency in your kitchen management and therefore, your business.

1.      Keep a record of absentee chefs

From the outset of any unauthorised absence by your chef, be sure to keep an organised record of all these periods. As identified by ACAS (more here), this allows you to monitor absence levels and subsequently identify an issue at an early stage.  Check our blog on preventing disciplinary problems at your hospitality business.

2.      Communication with absentee chefs

It is important to contact your chef to carry out your necessary investigations before misconduct proceedings are initiated. Write a simple but explicit written letter to your chef stating that employees’ failure to contact the company to explain their absence. The letter should conclude by stating the importance of your chef contacting you to provide an immediate explanation as to their absence.

3.      Do your absentee chefs have good reason to be AWOL?

From contact with your chef – assuming they respond – it becomes possible to distinguish between those long or short-term absences that are due to illness or injury, and those that would appear to have no good reason.  While any absence -including illness or injury – should demand an explanation, it is still important to reserve this distinction as it may determine your next steps.

4.      Responding to your absentee chef’s behaviour

If the unauthorised absences by your chef are not related to illness or injury, and no other good reason is given, then the absences can be treated as misconduct.  This means it is time to initiate the appropriate disciplinary procedures (refer to Company Handbook) which may include Gross Misconduct.

Alternatively, if the absences are related to illness or injury then your chef should send medical certificates for the period of their absence. If the chef does not possess this document, they must be asked to visit a doctor to establish whether their absence is sufficiently linked to their illness or injury.  Find out more here about short-term sickness absence.

If the absence is not related to illness or injury but is explained by other causes deemed more than ‘no good reason’ e.g. family or dependents’ issues, then alternative action may be required as detailed in ACAS’ guidance.

5.      Improving attendance after your absentee chef’s return

Should your chef return to work following the necessary investigations, the employee must be given guidance on improving their attendance. Importantly, you must make it clear what consequences will ensue if their attendance continues to be a bone of contention.  Improving your own performance management is key here, in order to get the best from your staff.

6.      When all else fails…

Should your chef fail to respond to your written letter – see Step 2 – and any other attempts at contact you have made, then once again the recognised disciplinary procedure should be initiated.

In order to minimise absentee issues, it is best to have positive management practices in place which help you to retain good chefs in your kitchen – see our blog on ways to keep your chef.

For information, advice or support on HR issues in the hospitality sector, please email us atinfo@francesgillespie-hr.com

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