When an employee goes AWOL to attend a protest


This Friday has been noted as a significant day for climate strike action around the world. If an employee skips work to join a protest, would you know what to do?  The HR Dept offers some advice...

Are you so passionate about climate change that you would be willing to let employees take time off to protest? Well, this Friday may test your views. It has been marked as a significant day for climate strike action around the world. Earlier in the year, the teen activist Greta Thunberg inspired schoolchildren to bunk off school – sorry, but you can’t strike from going to school! And the Unions backing this week’s event are calling for adults to support the action.

Even the most supportive employers will have concerns that this may affect business. So how should you deal with it?  In the interests of fairness, would you act the same way if the employee wanted to protest about Brexit or another Donald Trump visit?

Consistency in managing staff is very important. And employees need to understand the rules before deciding to go AWOL, because there must be a consequence. Their motivation is irrelevant.

If they have an approved holiday for their day of action it should be fine. Unless, that is, the media were to show your employee behaving badly whilst loudly proclaiming that they work for you. That could be considered bringing your company into disrepute. Let’s hope not.

Following a fair procedure

If they simply don’t show up for work and have been talking to colleagues about attending a protest, then the first step is to try to contact them and be sure to log your attempts.

Your absence policy will explain how they should report absence, and you can take disciplinary action if they failed to follow your procedure. However, it is more likely that they will pull a sickie. In this case, a return to work interview must be carried out. Do ring The HR Dept for help in handling this.

Harnessing employee energy

It is wonderful to have staff who are positively engaged in things like conservation and climate change. Perhaps looking at ways the company can support these activities will result in more engaged employees. By feeling that they are making a positive contribution, it may lessen the urge to go join a protest.

Getting a second opinion

If you are thinking of getting involved this Friday, or at a future community event, and would like a second opinion on your people planning, do get in touch with us. Equally, if you have questions surrounding unauthorised employee absence, we can advise you on an effective and legal solution.


Local businesses throughout Cambridgeshire, run by people like you, outsource their HR because it is easier and more cost effective. We tell you what you can do, not what you can’t. We are here to give you practical and sensible help to sort out problems whenever you need us. When you are thinking about how to grow for the future, we can help you put together the ‘people plans’ to enable you to be even more profitable tomorrow.

HR Dept.