Ghosting by employees: what do employers need to know about this trend?

With almost daily talk of how Millennials and ‘Gen Z’ are showing increasing fickleness, it may come as no surprise that there is a new trend emerging in the recruitment process: ‘ghosting.’ The concept of ghosting first emerged in the dating scene to describe a sudden, unexplained lack of contact by way of a delivering a ‘response via no response.’

This concept has now found its place in the recruitment process, with 28% of employers now stating that they have experienced sudden radio silence from otherwise interested candidates. While the legal implications for prospective employers and employees don’t come into play until an offer has been accepted, there are certain things a business should be prepared for, should they find themselves ‘ghosted’ during the recruitment process. Ghosting is also reportedly on the increase on exit where employees are simply leaving their employment without communicating that they have done so or why.

What impact can ‘ghosting’ have on a business?

Most organisations invest a great deal of time and resources to recruit quality candidates. Depending on the size of an organisation and the seniority of candidate being recruited, there will be different amounts of time and money invested in finding the right individual for a role and, as such, the loss shouldered by a company if a candidate suddenly drops out will vary. The more time and effort dedicated to filling a role – and that will likely increase with the seniority of position in question – the greater the loss for the ghosted company.

The practical impact on a business will again vary according to its size. A large organisation is more likely to be recruiting from a large pool of candidates, so, should one drop out inexplicably, there are others to choose from.

But, for smaller businesses and start-ups, the time committed to interviewing prospective candidates is more likely to directly impact them. For companies still in their infancy, time really is money, and an hour spent interviewing a candidate is time that could have been used to invest in the growth of the business. However, the impact for all businesses is ultimately the same – it prolongs hiring, forces companies to overhaul their processes and can cause friction with recruiters.

In terms of an apparent exit where there has been no written resignation the employer will need to tread very carefully.

What can employers do?

When recruiting, employers are ultimately dealing with a diverse pool of individuals, each of whom may be simultaneously applying for other jobs and may be using multiple agencies. It is therefore impossible for employers to completely safeguard themselves against being ghosted. After all, for many candidates, not replying to a job offer is an easier and more appealing prospect than simply saying no.

Employers should therefore prepare themselves for the fact that being ghosted is a real possibility in their recruitment process and a risk that can never completely be eliminated. However, there are certain things a business can do to ensure it mitigates the amount of loss it bears, should a candidate ghost them.

The most obvious step a business can take is ‘hedging its bets’ by interviewing more candidates for a role than it needs to. This approach will protect the business so that, should one, or even two, candidates suddenly drop out – even at the late stage in the recruitment process – there will still be other viable options.

However, this strategy should be used with caution, and will not work on a ‘one size fits all’ basis. The number of candidates to be considered will vary according to the seniority of the role being recruited for, as higher-level positions will inevitably have a smaller pool of candidates available.

Although the recruitment process places no contractual obligation on either employee or employer, ghosting is becoming an increasingly common way of rejecting job offers and employers should be prepared for the likelihood of its occurrence

The situation can be especially difficult to deal with where an existing employee ghosts themselves out of their job, by failing to show up one day without a formal (or even informal) resignation. An employee’s failure to show up to work does not automatically end the employment contract.

Employers must be careful to ensure there is not some good reason for their employee’s sudden disappearance, such as ill health. A sensible first step would be to write to the employee, explain that their absence is being treated as unauthorised and therefore unpaid pending further explanation, and give them an opportunity to reply. When faced with this situation, employers should be aware of the risk of an unfair dismissal claim and should seek legal advice before terminating.

If you require assistance with any of the above matters, please contact David Greenhalgh from the Joelson employment team on +44 (0)20 7580 5721.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.