Companies are struggling with a wave of “apathetic” employees – failing to turn up to work, an employment Lawyer has said, with retail and hospitality industries among worst hit, as unexplained absences triple since pandemic.

Leaders are grappling with a notable increase in the number of “apathetic” and mentally unwell employees failing to show up for work, says leading employment Lawyer, Nick Hurley.

He told The Telegraph, Charles Russell Speechlys, where Mr. Hurley serves as partner and head of employment, has witnessed a more than threefold surge in businesses seeking advice on how to address unexplained absences since the onset of the pandemic – “What we have noticed is in those sectors where perhaps wages and skills are a little lower, there is a definite increase in the number of employees who are just not showing up to work – and leaving the employer in the doo-doo, as it were.”

The sharp rise reflects “the growing preponderance of mental health issues” and a “sense of apathy” among staff who often skew younger, he said.

Conditions like depression and anxiety have become far more widespread since the pandemic, particularly among young people. It has contributed to a surge in the number of people out of work because of long-term sickness, reaching a record 2.8 million.

The Office for National Statistics last week warned that rising worklessness was partly to blame for Britain falling into recession. Hurley said the increase in staff going AWOL was also being driven by workers feeling confident they could “pick up work fairly quickly” elsewhere.

Many companies are still struggling with crippling staff shortages, with the unemployment rate close to historical lows at 3.8%. Hurley said: “Particularly in the restaurant sector, hospitality, wherever you go there seems to be signs up saying: ‘Staff wanted’.” A post-covid shift to more “permissive ways of working” has also come with a “greater chance of people gaming their employers and taking some advantages”, he added.

 So, what can hospitality leaders do to tackle ‘Apathetic’ Employees? 

  • Be a Passion-led Leader – Be a Hospitality Hero – The current state of play means many hospitality managers and staff have become monotonous, stuck on autopilot and stagnant. Many have lost their mojo! Reconnect with your why and lead with passion, so you bring your team with you.
  • Communicate Consistently – Have a well-defined mission statement helps guide actions and decisions
  • Thank and appreciate your staff… not just on predictable ‘special days’. I also run staff incentives and bonuses twice a year.
  • Provide rotas with plenty of time
  • Have open conversations about the consequences of absenteeism
  • Talk – when and if appropriate try to have a conversation. Show you’ve noticed, show you care, but also build awareness around the consequences of such behaviour.
  • Empower and Engage Them – Coach the individual to determine a solution to empower and engage them.
  • Offer support – If needed, we offer Hospitality Action employee support where employees can access lots of different support including funding and counselling, if they come into hardship. Have a look at what support you can offer all staff.
  • Be interested in your staff wellbeing and wellness and lead from the top, for me employee benefits isn’t just a tick box exercise, it’s about daily leading with love.

Hospitality leaders need to adopt proactive strategies to reinvigorate teams and cultivate a supportive work environment.

By leading with empathy and prioritising employee wellness, hospitality leaders can navigate through these challenges and build resilient, motivated teams poised for success in the post-pandemic landscape.