Do you take all of your annual leave allowance?
As I sit here tapping away on the decking, anticipating my next holiday, I began pondering, why on earth don’t all employees take their full annual leave allowance? Depending on which survey you read, between half to two thirds of all UK employees fail to take their full annual leave allowance. On top of this, nearly half of all employees work whilst they are on holiday. So why does this happen and what could be done about it?
Why do people not take all their annual leave?
The main reason employees don’t use all of their holidays is that they fear falling behind. Workplaces have typically become so lean that there aren’t enough people around to cover them when they are absent from the office.
Other common reasons are:
- Wanting to be noticed and get a pay rise
- Feeling that no one else can do the work
- Inability to disconnect
- (Perceived) pressure from management
So fear in its many guises is the main reason why annual leave goes unused.
So why is this a problem and what can be done about it?
The legal position on annual leave
The Working Time Regulations stipulate that all employees should receive a minimum of 5.6 weeks annual leave. This figure is inclusive of public holidays and is, of course, pro-rated for part time employees. So the legal starting point is that employees should take their annual leave. Employers can’t pay the statutory portion out.
Not taking annual leave can impact productivity levels and staff morale. It also has an impact on a company’s financial liability. By taking annual leave, Expedia’s 2016 study revealed that a staggering 90% of employees felt less stressed and more relaxed. 89% felt happier and better rested, whilst 83% felt that they were more focused at work when they returned. So not encouraging staff to take their annual leave is a false economy, their health and wellbeing suffers as does the organisations bottom line.
So, what can employers do about it?
Some solutions are pretty obvious but others may require a change in organisational culture and may therefore take longer to embed. However difficult that journey may seem, it is well worth starting.
- Lead by example. If you want your employees to take a break, then you need to show them that its possible. If you are tempted to contact your team members to ask them a question whilst they are on leave, ask yourself, can it not wait a couple of weeks? By switching your phones off when you are away, your employees are more likely to do the same.
- Encourage employees to book ahead. Often employees don’t take holidays due to poor planning. Time simply runs away from them and before they know it, there’s no time left to book the leave. Reminding employees to book their leave will encourage them to plan ahead.
- Ensure there is a back up plan. A single point of failure caused by there being only one expert in the organisation isn’t always the best way to plan. Can someone else be trained to keep the essentials running whilst the expert is away?
- Give employees the space to get back into the swing of things when they get back. It takes time to clear the email backlog, so help your team by creating space for them to feel like they can do that without having to dive straight in.
Need additional help?
We can help you design effective policies around annual leave and other key business principles. We can also help you create a business environment where people are empowered to take their annual leave.
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