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What to do when an employee goes AWOL

Absent employees cost British businesses millions of pounds each year. So what to do when an employee goes AWOL that can add pressure to not only the company but the workforce as a whole.

In many instances, one-off ‘misdemeanours’ are forgiven, and the cost is simply absorbed. However, when a suspicious absence is prolonged, or repeated on a regular basis, it’s time to take action. Not only is the absent employee costing the business time and money, they’re also impacting the morale of other staff members, and probably taking up an awful lot of management time and energy!

It is estimated that currently the total figure for employee absenteeism costs the UK economy around 26 Billion pounds a year (at 2019).

AWOL – Absent without leave, definition “is to be away from your duties without intention of leaving”. UK slang often referred to it as “swinging the lead”. However it is defined, it’s damaging to your company.

We recently assisted a client who referred to this term, stating that their employee, was at work, but being a delivery driver always managed to pick the vehicle that was on loan, and didn’t have a tracking device, so was outside the companies reach. They needed to know why a 2 hour round trip was consistently taking 4 hours when traffic reports in the area reported no issues. The simple solution, fit one of our live tracking devices, follow behind at a discreet distance, to establish that 2 hours were spent in a layby sleeping.

Absent employees not sitting at desks and already a quarter of the way through the day

Absent Employees

To deal with an absent employee effectively, you’ll need evidence. If your intention is to dismiss an employee who is proven to have misused company time, you’ll need to prove gross misconduct. Your word against theirs will probably be insufficient, especially if the case goes to an employment tribunal – hard evidence is the only solution, and that’s where a commercial investigation can assist.

Discovering the hard facts during an employees’ time AWOL, be that genuinely, they are at home recovering from an illness, and not well enough to report it, or that they are conducting activities that would imply they are otherwise fit for work.

As specialist commercial and corporate private investigators, we handle many absent employee cases each year. We work for small and medium businesses, major corporates, and public sector bodies, ensuring they are able to take positive action against employees who are faking sick absence or misusing company time, whilst AWOL.

Cases in which employees are working elsewhere while telling their employer they are unfit for work are all too common, as are employees who set up their own businesses, often in competition to their employers, during company time while using company resources and intellectual property. Despite more than 35 years’ experience in private investigations, sometimes what we uncover even astonishes us!

In this age of high technology, and almost instant access to developing an online presence to promote and deliver goods or services, ex-employees which they might soon become after a period of being AWOL find very few barriers to setup and operating in competition. A real issue if you have senior members of staff that have gained your industry knowledge during employment.

How to deal with absent employees

What our clients tell us is that it’s good to know this sort of behaviour doesn’t have to be tolerated. Good employees and a happy workforce is the backbone to most successful businesses, so it’s refreshing to be able to deal positively with the few ‘bad apples’ which most employers will encounter at some point.

Whilst trying to stay competitive, actions of the AWOL employee need to be addressed efficiently, with diplomacy. Whilst conducting an employee investigation it is imperative that your investigation company uses various legal investigative techniques, including surveillance, to gather the evidence required to take action against suspicious employees and that this evidence is presented in a clear, concise report.

Because of our expertise and experience, we use methods which ensure the evidence will be admissible in court or a tribunal. This gives our clients options when dealing with employees who have gone AWOL – the approach often depends upon the severity of the case – but it puts them firmly in the driving seat of ensuring their business is protected from such damaging employee behaviour.

For further information about our commercial and corporate private investigation services, please get in touch to speak to one of the team.

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