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 the organisation. 


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 


Security level: Public

More Blog Entries

The need for curiosity 

I have never seen it written into a management JD or identified as an essential requirement in...

How Bond villains convey malevolence 

  Senior managers need the ability to hold an audience, to dominate a room, to...