How do you know your organisation’s absence management strategy is
working? You might assume it was a reduction in absenteeism but this
might be masking a problem with leavism.
The issue of presenteeism, where employees attend work when ill
rather than fall foul of the strictly enforced absence policy or in
the case of senior managers concern at being seen as lacking in
stamina and commitment, has been recognised for many years. Leavism is
where employees, typically managers, take annual leave rather than
ring in sick. Which is in it’s self an extension of the practice of
using holidays to catch up on work.
A study by Manchester University based on a survey of staff in a
large police force found a third of officer reported taking annual
leave when they were in fact injured or sick. A follow up study by the
Charted Institute of Personnel and Development found that 37% of
people reported taking annual leave rather than sick leave and that
over 70% of people were aware of the practice amongst colleagues.
What does this tell is about the health of the organisation? You
might assume low rates of absenteeism was a good thing and an
indication of a heathy organisation. In fact an artificially low level
of absenteeism may be an indication of an unhealthy work culture in
If people can’t do their work without using their annual leave to
keep on top of it or feel they must take annual leave rather than sick
leave then this is bad for them and ultimately bad for the
organisation. Exhausted and stressed managers are less effective, more
likely to make bad decisions and less inclined to be understanding of
the pressures on their staff.
So much of management is about good people management so simply
focusing on the absence figures may lead to the wrong conclusions.
Blair Mcpherson former Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk