What is abscondment?
"Abscondment" is a form of termination where a worker leaves his or her worksite without notice, and without intention to return to the job. "Abscondment" is also used interchangeably with "runaway". These two words are frequently used in the context of employment of migrant workers in Malaysia, where the company is liable to pay a fine if their migrant worker absconds from the worksite.
Why do workers abscond?
Workers abscond for many reasons, but the main reason being their inability to communicate with management and follow through with the normal termination procedures. Therefore, workers abscond because they feel this is their only way to leave a job they find undesirable.
How to minimise worker abscondment?
1. Ensure that workers have clear knowledge of the job scope
Often times, workers are not well informed of the job scope that they are undertaking. Many find out about the true nature of their jobs only when they arrive. Recruiters may have misled or misrepresented the jobs to quickly place candidates to you. Workers may also have problems understanding job contracts presented to them in a foreign language or complicated legal language. It's important to only onboard candidates whose expectations match your job on offer.
2. Pay wages on time and do not deduct wages unlawfully
Many foreign workers come from difficult backgrounds and depend heavily on monthly wages to sustain their families back home. Delays in payment of wages or unknown salary deductions cause undue financial stress on workers and may lead to abscondment if there are better job prospects elsewhere, albeit unlawful.
3. Communicate and emphathise with your workers
Companies should frame HR policies that provide workers with a safe space to raise their grievances. Many grievances can be handled more effectively early on, rather than allowing it to fester and brew resentment. Some terminations can be avoided in this way. Workers who have decided to terminate are also more likely to comply with proper termination procedures if they feel they can communicate reasonably with the company's HR.
4. Educate your workers on the proper process of termination
Sometimes, workers may not be aware of the normal process of termination or their legal obligation in the context of termination. During the onboarding phase, take the opportunity to explain the employment contract to your workers and don't shy away from talking about termination because you will not prevent it. Frequent abscondment will affect morale in your workforce, and minimising such occurrences is paramount to preserve morale.
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