What is Leavism and How Do I Stop It?

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What is Leavism?

Leavism is when employees take annual leave but instead of taking a break from work, they use the time to catch up on their backlog. Often, they find that getting the work done out of working hours means they are not constantly interrupted by colleagues, calls or emails.

Leavism is becoming more and more popular as working remotely has become easier thanks to modern day technology.
Though it may seem harmless to pop into the office on a weekend or check emails whilst on holiday, it can develop into a larger issue and soon staff may feel pressured or obligated to do some work out of paid hours far too often.

Why is Leavism a Health and Safety Risk?

The problem with leavism is that it can be dangerous to your employees’ mental wellbeing and it is more important than ever to switch off from work occasionally which is why there are legislations in place for maximum working hours and minimum annual leave.

The Working Time Regulations states that adult workers are entitled to at least 11 consecutive hours of rest in each 24-hour period between finishing the one shift and starting the next.
It also says that adult workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in each 7-day period. This must be in addition to their Daily Rest Period entitlement and statutory paid annual leave – which is a minimum of 28 days including Bank Holidays.

Employees who choose to use their annual leave to continue working away from the office rather than have a break could be doing themselves a lot of harm.
Overworking and lack of rest can cause burnout and lead to a decrease in morale, susceptibility to stress and depression.

As an employer, you have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, this includes mental health.
It is your responsibility to provide a safe working environment and, if employees are overworking and develop stress related illnesses, you could leave yourself liable for personal injury claims.

What Can Employers do to Stop Leavism?

It can be hard for employers to put restrictions in place because you may not even realise that your employees are working on their days off or regularly every evening.
So, the first thing you’ll probably need to do is have discussions with your employees about their workload and whether they find themselves taking work home or working during annual leave.
An open and honest 1-2-1 meeting with each employee is probably the only way you’ll learn of any leavism.

Then, if you do find any employees are working far beyond their paid hours, you should consider the following:

Redistribution of work

If an employee is having to take work home, then the chances are their workload is too much for them to handle alone and you should discuss how their task list can be distributed to colleagues to lessen their load.

Hire more staff

The issue may be that you are understaffed and that even redistributing work won’t solve the problem. It might be time to consider hiring more people to cope with the sheer volume of work and enable your current employees to create a fair work/life balance and the get the rest periods that they deserve.

Set up a policy

Sometimes it may not be the workload causing an issue, but the employee may just not know when to switch off. It is your duty to put restrictions in place to ensure that employees are not working every evening on during their annual leave.
This may mean putting a policy in your handbooks that clearly states employees are not expected to work more than X number of additional hours a week and that all annual leave must be taken by the end of the year.

Annual leave cover

One fear that employees may have when it comes to taking annual leave is that their work may pile up and become unbearable when they return to the office, or that any colleagues who may be covering their work will not complete it to their standard.
In these cases, you may need to put a carefully considered procedure in place such as training up more staff across more areas of the business so that competent cover is on hand whenever required.
Alternatively, you might decide to offer annual leave for certain staff during quieter periods so that work won’t build up massively whilst they are away.

The most important thing is that you get to the bottom of why employees are not taking annual leave, working outside of their paid hours or taking work home with them. Once you have understood what the cause is, you can decide which of the above courses of action are most suitable and take the steps to prevent leavism from becoming a major issue in the workplace.

If you require further support with this issue, then call our team on 0845 2626 260.
We have qualified and experienced HR consultants ready to offer support and advice whenever you need it.

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