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Leaveism (leavism)[1] is a term first coined in 2013 by Dr Ian Hesketh, a researcher at University of Manchester - in the UK, to describe the phenomena of employees using flexitime, annual leave, rest days and other leave entitlement schemes to have time off when they are in fact too unwell to go to work. He later extended this to include occasions whereby employees took work home and/or on holiday that they could not complete in paid working hours. Hesketh's research, which centred on well-being in the UK police service, sought to identify a lacuna in current thinking around absenteeism and presenteeism;[2] of which there is a plethora of academic study and commentary. The aim of his studies was to highlight that the true extent of sickness absence may be masked by the practice of leaveism, and that there may be a hidden populace experiencing significant workload overload.

Leaveism[3] is the practice of:

  1. employees using allocated time off such as annual leave entitlements, flexi hours banked, re-rostered rest days and so on, to take time off when they are in fact unwell;
  2. employees using these leave entitlements to look after dependents, including children and/or elderly relatives;
  3. employees taking work home that cannot be completed in normal working hours;
  4. employees working while on leave or holiday to catch up.

In a later paper Hesketh et al. explored the relationship of leaveism with aspects of work-life balance, or integration as he preferred to call it; and the extent to which the practice existed amongst senior police officers.[4]

In support, research carried out by Gerich (n=930) suggested that fear of job loss or downgrading and low perceived job gratification appeared to increase the likelihood of the first element of leaveism.[5]

Findings from a national survey of police officers in the UK carried out in 2016 (n= 16,841) for the Police Federation of England and Wales noted that 59% of respondents had used annual leave, flexi time or rest days to have time away from the workplace due to the state of their physical health, and 42% had done the same due to psychological health conditions. Furthermore, the same survey reported 50% of respondents conceded they had taken work home that could not have completed in normal working hours, and 40% had worked while on holiday or annual leave in order to catch up with outstanding work.[6]

On a 2017 study visit to the United States, Hesketh noted a further manifestation in respect of US police patrol officers taking vacation allocations to mask sickness. In some of these cases it was in order to negate complaints or criticisms of working additional duties or employment outside of their police department. A culture of long hours and relatively high wages drove officers to use their own vacation time if suffering ill health to continue on additional paid work that was not as emotionally taxing or physically demanding.

Hesketh and Cooper are currently researching the second aspect of leaveism, associated with using time off such as annual leave, flexitime and other rest day allocations to look after dependents, including both children and elderly relatives; the so-called sandwich generation.[7] Again, the consequences of this are that employees are vulnerable to workload overload, which may, over time, have major health implications to those individuals. This may also impact on workplace outcomes, such as lost productivity and/or reduced performance and efficiency. This work also looks at the implications for resilience, engagement and discretionary effort which is discussed in depth in Hesketh and Cooper's book Managing Health and Wellbeing in the Public Sector[8]

The CIPD and Simply Health, following research with over 1,000 HR professionals representing 4.6m employees in the UK, reported that 87% considered that technology affected people's ability to switch off out of work hours (element 4 of Leaveism), taking phone calls and answering emails were cited by way of example. Further, that 69% had observed Leaveism over the last 12 months. A link to the report, Health and Well-being at Work, can be found here. [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesketh, I; Cooper, C (2014). "Leaveism at work". Occupational Medicine. 64 (3): 146–147. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqu025.
  2. ^ Johns, G (2010). "Presenteeism in the workplace: A review of the research agenda". Journal of Organizational Behavior. 31: 519–542. doi:10.1002/job.630.
  3. ^ Hesketh, I; Cooper, C; Ivy, J (2014). "Leaveism and public sector reform: Will the practice continue?". Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance. 1 (2): 205–212. doi:10.1108/joepp-03-2014-0012.
  4. ^ Hesketh, I; Cooper, C; Ivy, J (2015). "Leaveism and Work-Life Integration: The Thinning Blue Line?". Policing. 9 (2): 183–194. doi:10.1093/police/pau029.
  5. ^ Gerich, J (2015). "Leaveism and illness-related behaviour". Occupational Medicine. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqv125.
  6. ^ Houdmont, J. "Officer Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey Descriptive Statistics Summary Report Absence Behaviours January, 2017" (PDF). Police Federation England and Wales. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  7. ^ Miller, D (1981). "The 'Sandwich' Generation: Adult Children of the Aging". Social Work (26): 419–423. doi:10.1093/sw/26.5.419.
  8. ^ Hesketh, I; Cooper, C (2017). Managing Health and Wellbeing in the Public Sector. New York: Routledge. ISBN 1138929204.
  9. ^ "Health and Well-being at Work". CIPD and Simply Health.