According to an ACAS report based on Glassdoor research, a whopping HALF of all UK employees don’t take their full leave entitlement.
On average, an employee takes around three-quarters (77 per cent) of his or her annual leave – which sees the average full time worker losing 6.5 days leave each year. That’s time that could be spent on a luxury cruise, relaxing on a beach on even sat relaxing in the garden.
What makes even worse reading is that nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) admitted they worked whilst on annual leave and almost one in 5 had been contacted by a colleague and 13 per cent had been contacted by their boss.
Committed workers or HR time bomb?
At first glance, this reluctance to take holiday may seem like a sign of a committed workforce, but actually, working time regulations exist for a reason. Absence management expert Adrian Lewis from Activ Absence said recently:
“With 62% of UK employees saying in a survey that their workloads and stress levels have increased over the previous 12 months, UK workers clearly need a break – and the working time regulations exist to provide them with one. It’s time employers encouraged staff to take their full holiday entitlement – over-tired workers aren’t productive anyway. “Conditions which allow stress to thrive are bad for business as well as bad for mental health.
According to HSE statistics, stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases in 2016 and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.”
So Why Aren’t Employees Taking Their Annual Leave?
Sometimes it can be managers putting pressure on staff to remain in the office, but more frequently its another reason, such as:
- Staff not knowing how much holiday they have left, and not wanting to ask a manager to check
- Finding planned leave dates are already taken, and then finding it too much effort to try different dates
- Simple admin issues, such as not knowing which holiday form to use or who to ask
- Tight deadlines, meaning that staff worry about missing them
- Too many people allowing holiday to build up, then running out of time to take it at the end of year
How can employers help?
Firstly, when staff are on holiday, employers need to respect that and encourage colleagues to do the same – but often when staff get interrupted on their holiday, it is because colleagues do not know who’s off, when.
Investing in an absence management system is the easiest way to overcome many of the issues above, managing planned holiday effectively will reduce leave clashes, encourage sensible leave requests and encourage better staff engagement – as well as ensuring that staff are not contacted when they are not in work.
This applies to flexible working, too, it’s important to remember that people working from home still acquire staff holiday entitlements and even if they work from home, managers should not contact them outside ‘working hours’.
Managers should pro-actively ensure annual leave is taken throughout the year rather than left to build up, the easiest way to do this is to send out regular leave reminders – that way, those who have built up leave will be able to use it without causing serious staff shortages at the end of the year (the better absence management systems have this feature built in as standard).
Finally, if deadlines are short – consider extending them! It’s important to promote all round staff wellbeing and reduce stress wherever possible.
Partnering with travel companies
The best benefits packages are those which promote staff wellbeing and add perceived value to the employee. As many salary sacrifice benefits, such are gym memberships, are taxable, many companies are using strategic partnerships to offer group discounts as part of the benefits package.
Paul Edge, director of Cruise Club UK, has spent over 25 years working to improve the travel industry and believes that there is scope for businesses to work more closely with travel partners in the future. He says:
“An exclusive discount with cruise sites who are able to offer cruise deals from big companies like NCL Cruises and Azamara Cruises would add value to your benefits package. It has a high perceived value to the employee – and is easy for the employer to introduce. Employers could also use travel partners as part of their incentive schemes to improve engagement, something the MLM industry has been doing for years to improve motivation.”
“A relaxing holiday is one of the easiest ways for your people to de-stress – and a strategic partnership means you could be improving staff engagement at the same time.”