Presenteeism and Leavism – more jargon or a serious concern for wellbeing at work?

May 29, 2018
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Presenteeism is a term used to describe the phenomenon of people coming into work when they are unwell. While leaveism refers to people using allocated time off e.g. annual leave to work, or working outside contracted hours. The levels of presenteeism and leaveism were looked at in a recent survey by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).

The CIPD’s 18th annual survey of Health and Wellbeing At Work contacted over 1000 HR professionals some of the key findings of the survey are:

  • 22% of organisations reported that mental ill health is the primary cause of long-term absence compared with 13% in 2016. While this may appear an alarming rise to a certain extent this increase could be explained by an increasing recognition of mental health by employers as a workplace issue.
  • 37% of respondents reported that stress-related absence has increased over the past year and just 8% that it has decreased. Workload remaining by far the most common cause of stress at work.
  • 86% reported they have observed ‘presenteeism’ in their organisation over the past 12 months, an increase from 72% in 2016. Over a quarter of these report that ‘presenteeism’ has increased over this period, while just 8% report a decrease.
  • 69% reported that ‘leaveism’ has occurred in their organisation over the past year. Nearly three-fifths reported that employees work outside contracted hours to get work done, nearly two-fifths reported that employees use allocated time off such as holiday entitlement when unwell, and a third that employees use allocated time off to work.

So why does this matter? Having people at work who are ill can be more costly to the business than if they were absent, not only can illness be transmitted to other colleagues, but also ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more susceptible to costly mistakes, take longer to recover from their illness and cause lower workplace morale.

Overall failing to manage staff wellbeing issues can have a negative effect on absences levels and productivity.

Full details of the survey can be found on the CIPD website at:

Our HR Support service, led by Mariea Clarke, can help you plan ahead, maintain legal compliance and work through your HR challenges. Please contact Mariea using [email protected]  if you have any questions or would like to arrange an HR compliance audit.