Ghosting in the working world of work

A new trend that challenges employers

The term "ghosting" is well known by now and is mostly mentioned in connection with the dating-world. Ghosting describes the act of abruptly cutting off all communication without giving any sort of warning or explanation.1) Meanwhile, the term has also taken root in professional life, as this phenomenon is increasingly occurring in the world of work.

Ghosting in the workplace is mostly linked to the applicant's point of view. Employers advertise a  vacancy and applicants who do not seem suitable for the position often do not receive any response. Such behavior reflects negatively on employers. An applicant may not be suitable for the position applied for per se, but could be a "perfect fit" for a different job in the future. However, if no feedback is received, the candidate is unlikely to reapply. In addition, the company risks developing a bad reputation on the labor market, as word of such behavior spreads quickly.

However, less attention is paid to the fact that ghosting in the world of work can occur on both sides. The change from an employer's to an employee's market entails that companies have to make an even bigger effort in order to receive applications from high-quality candiates. The resulting oversupply of jobs lead to employers increasingly not receiving any feedback from applicants. The failure to appear for an interview puts recruiters in a difficult situation. Furthermore the lack of feedback delays the application process and increases the costs of recruiting. In isolated cases, it may even happen that a new employee simply does not show up for the first day of work, even though the employment contract has already been signed.

 

Why are you being ghosted and what can you do about it?

An important factor that should be taken into account, is that commitment is increasingly taking a back seat in society and many people do not want to commit to a job or an employer. However, if a company receives no feedback only in isolated cases, its own qualities do not have to be questioned immediately. If ghosting occurs more frequently, you should invest in employer branding, in order to positionyourself as an attractive employer.

For many candidates, the act of declining a job offer is simply unpleasant and some tend to avoid an awkward situation by ghosting. Thus, an employer, should make the rejection process as convenient as possible. Using Outlooks Quick Poll Ad-In might be a solution for this particular situation. In this way applicants have the opportunity to let the employer know whether or not they are coming in for an interview or on their first day of work.

The fact that companies are ghosted by applicants can also be due to a delayed feedback-process. In times where companies have to compete in the "war for talents", long communication channels are a stumbling block and stand in the way of an efficient recruiting process. Hence, you should avoid long communication channels and always keep applicants up to date on the current status, even if you only ask the candidate to stay patient for a little while.

 

What is the legal framework?

From a legal point of view, ghosting in the form of the unexcused non-appearance of a new employee on the first day of work can be understood as a form of resignation from the employment contract prior to commencement of employment. However, a distinction must be made as to whether the contract includes a trial month:

  • During the trial month, an employment relationship may be terminated at any time by either contracting party without consideration of deadlines and dates or stating any reasons. As it is not in the interest of either the employer or the employee to wait until the start of employment to dissolve the employment relationship, in the case of an employment relationship with a trial period, both parties can unilaterally withdraw from the agreed-upon employment contract before the start of employment without any further legal consequences. In this case, a resignation cannot trigger any claims for damages and the agreement of a contractual penalty (for not starting the service) is invalid. The employee is therefore not entitled to "a chance for a trial month".
  • In the case of an employment relationship without a trial month, the Austrian Salaried Employees Act (“AngG) standardizes for employment contracts of salaried employees certain reasons for resignation for employers (e.g. in the case of failure to commence employment at the agreed time or in the case of a reason for dismissal) and employees (e.g. delay in commencement due to fault or in the case of an important reason entitling to early resignation). If an unjustified resignation (= resignation without a reason for resignation) occurs, the employment relationship that has not yet commenced is nevertheless terminated. Under certain circumstances, however, employees or employers may be liable for damages!

Whether or not a trial month exists depends primarily on the agreement between the employee and the employer, but many collective agreements also provide for a trial month, either mandatorily or in the absence of an agreement to the contrary. For example, the collective agreement for salaried employees in trade stipulates that the first month is considered a trial month within the meaning of Section 19 (2) AngG, unless it is otherwise agreed. Attention: For trainees (Lehrlinge in the meaning of the Austrian Vocational Training Act), a probationary period (of three months) is mandatory by law, and special formal requirements must be observed (written form, consent of the legal representative in the case of minors)!

 

What should be considered in payroll accounting?

Every employed person (employees, independent contractors, marginally employed persons, etc.) must be registered with the competent health insurance institution before starting work (exception: electronic registration within 7 days in the case of on-site registration). If the registration for compulsory insurance is not submitted in time before the start of work, administrative fines of up to EUR 2,180 (or up to EUR 5,000 in the case of a repeat offence) may be imposed; if the registration is not submitted within 7 days of the start of compulsory insurance, surcharges for late payment may also be imposed (value 2023: EUR 59 per registration violation). It is therefore not possible to wait until the new employee actually starts work before registering!

Likewise, at the end of compulsory insurance, there is an obligation to deregister from social security (within 7 days). Attention: If a new employee has already been registered and then does not take up his or her employment, the registration must be cancelled (deregistration would incorrectly result in compulsory insurance for this day)!

 

Conclusion

Ghosting in the world of work not only has an impact on the specific application process, but also generally on the perceived attractiveness of the employer and the trustworthiness of the ghosting person. Regardless of whether it's an employer or an applicant - anyone who ghosts will be noted and won't get a second chance in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, ghosting can lead to additional administrative work in HR and payroll and may even have legal consequences. In order to minimize ghosting, it is advisable to invest in your employer branding strategy and take a critical look at your corporate culture.

 



Authors:

Julia Mäder

julia.maeder@bdo.at
+43 5 70 375 - 1521 
Katarina Vasic

katarina.vasic@bdo.at
+43 5 70 375 - 1284
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Cornelia Schwaminger

cornelia.schwaminger@bdo.at
+43 5 70 375 - 1379
Thomas Neumann

thomas.neumann@bdo.at
+43 5 70 375 - 1720
   

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

1) Dürbeck F. (30.11.22): Job Ghosting: When applicants suddenly disappear

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