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How to Deal with an ‘Absent Angela’ in your Workplace

A women in bed under the covers feeling ill 

Our HR Helpline has been busy supporting businesses that are concerned about absenteeism. It’s no surprise - absence levels in the UK continue to grow every year, costing the UK economy around £18 billion.

Being one man down has an instant effect on productivity. Someone’s work isn’t getting done and the real consequences run much deeper. Colleagues become increasingly stressed and disgruntled, picking up the work that’s being missed. It’s also hard to plan resources around someone who isn’t consistently in the office. One person’s absenteeism can cause widespread issues if left unresolved for months on end.

So how and when should you begin to be concerned about absenteeism? What are the patterns and warning signs we hear the most? And how can you handle the issue while sticking to legislation and your legal responsibilities as an employer? How do I build Attendance?

Meet Absent Angela

Most companies have at least one employee who is an Absent Angela. She doesn’t want to be at work, which makes her impossible to be around. She takes time off without a second glance.

One day she's in work, the next she's missing, so nobody can rely on her.

One day, she'll be present for a meeting with a list of objectives and actions. But with the level of time she takes off, it could be weeks before even the first to-do item is ticked off.

Her department can't plan. They’re frustrated at not delivering department objectives and her team feel anxious that they're constantly one man down.

This situation can go on for months and months - unless you take practical steps to do something about it.

The legislation around employee absences

Complying with legislation on how to deal with 'Absent' Angela isn't easy.

Following the appropriate procedure means lots of letters being drafted and several meetings to try to get to the bottom of her absenteeism. Worse, it means booking meeting after meeting knowing that she’s not likely to turn up. When they do happen, she is absolutely entitled to have one of her colleagues sit in the meeting with her. But that means her colleague has to take time out of her schedule too – effectively doubling the number of phone messages and emails that were backing up when it was just Angela who wasn’t performing.

The whole department is affected. A huge amount of time and energy is spent completing forms and making sure everyone is informed at each step of the process. Of course, the stakes are high. Get it wrong and Angela could take you to a tribunal that you’ll lose on the grounds of not following procedure. Get it right and, even if Angela attends the meetings, they could prove a complete waste of time.

Under Angela's human rights, and privacy laws, she doesn't actually have to tell you what's wrong with her. Not only does this mean that you can't plan for long term leave (because you don't know if that's what you're going to be faced with) but the worst case scenario is that she might be lying and you can't even find out.

Four strategies for dealing with Absent Angela

As an employer, there’s sometimes no avoiding the time-consuming processes that legislation forces you to follow. But, if you’re concerned about an Absent Angela, there are a few things you can do to resolve issues before they escalate or prepare for a smooth intervention.

1. Build good relationships with your employees in the first place. If you do that right from the start, it's your biggest hurdle covered. Good employee relations means excellent communication – it's the golden card to seeing you through any management situation. Your staff will talk to you, trust you and confide in you.

2. Make sure that your policies are up-to-date and robust. You must have a 'how to' practical guide on managing absenteeism. A step-by-step guide will pull you through situations like these. Make sure they're completely transparent and that staff and colleagues understand the procedures you've set down.

3. Follow the policy! You've gone to the trouble of putting together formal policies, so make sure you follow them. This will involve keeping good records of absenteeism, a vital resource for spotting patterns of absenteeism or if the problem goes to a tribunal. You’ll also need to maintain communication during the time your employee is off, talking to them regularly and staying involved with their progress.

4. Train your managers on following your policies. It's your very best plan to keep the company running smoothly. You can find out about our relevant training at, or contact us to discuss the challenges you’re facing.

Now we’ve dealt with Angela let’s focus on building Attendance!

Employee Engagement. This is key to attendance, changing the way people feel about their job and the company and engaging them. Involving them in decision making and increasing their contribution.

Building Trust. Let's ditch the Carrot and Stick! This starts with clean open and honest communication, delivering on your promises and if you fall short being honest, giving feedback in a way that encourages competence builds self responsibility and assessment. Giving rewards and appreciation is the key to motivation. Purpose. Giving staff a purpose, what is the business purpose and their value.

Well-being and Staff Development. Lest not be parents here but genuinely caring about our people, their well-being and developing them is key, if we do not develop them someone else will!

Do you need help managing absenteeism? We offer HR expertise and a trusted confidante, ready to help save you time and stress, while focused on your commercials, reducing your Human resource costs. Book a free consultation to discuss the HR challenges you’re facing.

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