Q&A  

Beware signs of ‘leaveism’ in the workplace

Beware signs of ‘leaveism’ in the workplace

Q. What is ‘leaveism’ and how do I know if my business has a leavism problem? 

A. Leaveism is a common phenomenon in the modern workplace and describes the practice of working while on annual leave or during other non-paid hours. 

It is important that staff feel able to take full advantage of the minimum rest periods, as laid out in the Working Time Regulations 1998. With this in mind, there are several indicators that can alert you to the existence of leaveism in your organisation, allowing you to address the problem before it is too late.

What may initially begin with staff popping into the office for a few hours on Saturday mornings or during holidays can quickly become a larger issue. If this is allowed to continue it may develop into leaveism, with staff regularly working throughout the weekend, or while they are away on holiday, without pay.

Employers should pay close attention and address any early signs before it becomes an unwanted part of the company culture. It is important to keep track of employees’ work activity at all times and ensure line managers are prepared to flag any concerns they have.

If employees are regularly having to work outside of paid working hours, then it might be a sign that you should consider redistributing work duties or hiring additional staff to help manage workloads.

It is becoming increasingly common for staff to check work emails outside of paid working hours. Employers often see this as a sign of an employee’s commitment to their organisation, with many even coming to expect this as a prerequisite for those in senior roles.

However, employers should understand that this action is also an example of leaveism. Rather than allowing this to continue, they should resolve any workload issues that prevent employees from switching off outside of working hours.

If you notice a number of staff are failing to take their allocated amount of annual leave, or cancelling planned leave at the last minute, you need to ask yourself “why?”

They may be reluctant to take a holiday because they are concerned about the consequences, anxious that work will build up in their absence, or fearful that colleagues will not be able to complete the work to the required standard. As an employer you should reiterate the importance of annual leave to staff, encouraging them to use their full allocation for their own health and wellbeing.

Although it may be easy to ignore the signs of leaveism in favour of having staff complete extra work without pay, employers need to think of the bigger picture.

Allowing leaveism to develop will eventually lead to employee burnout, falling workplace morale and retention issues.

David Price is managing director of Health Assured