More on leave retention and mental health

The research statistics quoted in an earlier blog article have finally been located.

Page 1 from Research dataIt is important to understand the limitations of the study.  Firstly, these are not statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics so they do not have the same weight as the regularly issued Labour Force statistics.  It would be great if the government began collating this useful economic and business information.

The data released by Tourism Australia also does not include owner-operators or part-time employees.  Part-time employees account for over 3 million Australians out of a total population of 22 million*. That seems a large number to leave out of the calculation.

Nor does the study include any annual leave that does not involve travel.  So if one takes annual leave and recuperate in one’s backyard for four weeks or some quality time with the kids, this is not included.

These restrictions alone show that official statistics on leave use and retention are needed.

The Research Data has some comments specifically about the workplace

“There is a consistent and widespread perception that leave is harder to take than it used to be. Two separate shifts have contributed to this feeling: that it is harder to take time off from work and that it is more difficult to plan holidays.”

Whether it is harder to plan holidays is not relevant to SafetyAtWorkBlog but why is it harder to take time off from work? It is unclear if this is a perspective of the employee or the employer. What is easier to accept is that

“Organisations were no longer seen to factor leave-taking into employee workloads, but expected people to work 52 weeks per year.”

From an OHS perspective this is unforgivable, unhealthy and unsafe. Any companies that do this are breaching their OHS obligations of providing a safe and healthy working environment.

“People are shifting into ‘work addiction’ behaviour irrespective of how they feel about it. They’re working longer hours and are under pressure to perform. Despite a higher consciousness of the importance of work/life balance, many believe things are going in the other direction.

Rather than the onus of planning leave being on the organisation as in the past, it was viewed that this has shifted to the individual. Whereas many organisations used to have cover for people going on leave, it was seen that it is now the responsibility of individuals to organise their workloads if they want to take leave.”

Further research on what caused the change of attitude would be fascinating. It is suspected that the survey frenzy generated by the global financial crisis may be showing results soon on this issue.

What the research data indicates is that there may be “employers of choice” and one’s awareness of work/life balance is high but the reality is vastly different.   There may be financial, organisational and career barriers to achieving some form of stability in mental health and productivity.  What is undeniable is that having leave from work is as important for one’s mental wellbeing as sleep, and to neglect either is not healthy or productive.

What we need is hard and authoritative evidence so that those who motivate change can do so from a position of authority rather than from impressions.

Kevin Jones

*As with all statistical calculations in SafetyAtWorkBlog, please verify them from the original data. (Arts graduates can describe “alliteration” but can’t count very well) If wrong, please advise us immediately.

Categories business, government, health, OHS, psychiatric, research, safety, Uncategorized, wellnessTags , , , ,

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