swing the lead

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swing the lead

To feign illness to avoid work. Gerald's boss accused him of swinging the lead, but felt awful when he saw that Gerald was very sick.
See also: lead, swing

swing the lead

malinger; shirk your duty. British informal
This phrase originated in the armed forces and the lead in question is probably a sounding lead, a lump of lead attached to a line and slowly lowered to determine the depth of a stretch of water. The connection between this process and shirking one's duty is not entirely clear.
See also: lead, swing

ˌswing the ˈlead

(old-fashioned, British English, informal) (usually used in the progressive tenses) pretend to be ill/sick when you are not, especially to avoid work: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her — she’s just swinging the lead.The lead (pronounced /led/ ) may refer to a weight at the bottom of a line that sailors used to measure how deep the water was. Swinging the lead was possibly considered an easy job, and so came to mean avoiding hard work.
See also: lead, swing
References in periodicals archive ?
The PM said: "We ask people what's unfair about Britain, they will say what is unfair is I'm working hard, but there are people swinging the lead on welfare, who are not making the effort."
Work colleagues swinging the lead is one of the most de-motivating factors in the workplace, a Birmingham employment lawyer has claimed.
"It was hard seeing Stephen suffer like that, especially as some people thought he was swinging the lead.
Apparently, in the Black Country, there is a saying that anyone swinging the lead and drawing dole or benefits to which they are not entitled is taking advantage of The Treacle Stick.
He insists: "Some people think I am swinging the lead, but I'm desperate to be involved again."
This is because when one seaman was swinging the lead, the rest were reefing sails to manoeuvre the vessel and the hard work was being done aloft.
He was filmed visiting a Chester fitness centre and washing his car after boss Ian Turley suspected he was "swinging the lead" by claiming he was unfit to attend disciplinary hearings in 2005.
I have been off work for six months with this dreadful illness but I am aware that many of my colleagues think I am swinging the lead.
"On the other hand, where employers have good reason to believe that someone is 'swinging the lead', it is crucial that they follow their disciplinary procedures.
Any organisation worth its salt should keep a close eye on the absentee levels and have policies in place to make sure that workers are not swinging the lead.
Differentiating between employees genuinely suffering from illness and stress and those more accustomed to swinging the lead is clearly key to making progress on this issue.
Q HOW did the saying "swinging the lead" originate?
If a man can have six months away from his workplace he either doesn't have a job in his company or he has been swinging the lead in the first place.Whoever thought this one up in Parliament can't have very much to do with his time either.
``And this is not a jolly yacht with a tumble drier,microwave and all the rest of it.There's no electricity and you feel like you're swinging the lead all the time.
"If you believed ISME almost everyone in the country's swinging the lead - the figure would be nearer 17 than 83 per cent.