In general, a refusal to return to work is deemed to be a resignation. Employers are empowered to treat an employee’s refusal that way, although it would be best to determine if there are special circumstances influencing an employee’s refusal to return, for example: is the employee a caregiver? Are they at high risk for COVID-19? Therefore, we recommend that you exercise caution and have an active dialogue with your employees before you make a termination.
If special circumstances do exist, explore how the employee can be accommodated within the workplace. Whatever you decide in the end, document your exchanges about accommodation and keep them on file.