As I sit in an internet café on a campsite in The Netherlands, I note how easily people pop in to catch up with work whilst on holiday. In fact, as an HR Consultant, I’m joining them in that activity. Along with people working, there are children on social media; all getting along side by side. How easy it is to ‘healthily’ mix work with pleasure, thanks to technology.

I’m led to wonder how many ‘catch up on work’ whilst on leave – if they take leave at all. This blog explores some of the reasons why employees don’t take their leave entitlement and how you, as an employer, can encourage them to do so.

A study by the Direct Line Travel Insurance claims that Britains workers are not utilising their holiday entitlement. As an HR Consultancy, our belief is that a break away from work is key to ensuring a healthy work/life balance. Here we will explore some reasons why ’13 per cent of UK workers either don’t take all their holiday allowance ‘www.directlinegroup.com; along with the effect this has on the workplace and what we can do to combat it.

What is stopping people from using their holiday allowance?

According to research, there are a number of reasons why people aren’t taking their full holiday allowance. Below are examples of what our head HR Consultant, believes to be some of the most important to address.

  • Workload Pressures: A heavy workload can discourage staff to take time off of work. They may feel they have too much to do now or fear the amount they will have upon returning.
  • Fellow Colleagues:  A sense of responsibility to the company or worry of putting pressure on fellow colleagues can prevent people from taking holidays.
  • No plans or can’t afford to travel: There is a misconception amongst UK employees that holiday days should only be taken if physically going somewhere. As HR Consultants in Manchester, we believe that paid holidays should also be utilised for other situations. Special occasions, spending time with friends/family and personal interests are all valid reasons to use your entitlement. It is important to engage in life outside of work, to rest and stay motivated.
  • Schedule Clashes: A common cause is that many people want time off around the same time. Summertime or Christmas, there are peak months that employees request time off. Clashes can also occur when an employee’s family/friends are unable to book the same time off of work, resulting in cancelled plans that don’t get rebooked.
  • Concerns about a future in the workplace:  Employees can be put off of taking time off due to concerns about what their bosses think. Staff worry about appearing lazy or unfocused; resulting in them becoming overworked and stressed.

From an HR perspective, why are employee holidays so important?

As employers, we all know that employee holidays will impact on projects within the business. However, we are also aware that following a break employees are more energised. Therefore, as employers, we should encourage our employees to take off the time that they are entitled to; under the Working Time Directive.

According to hrmagazine.co.uk, ‘A culture of “all work and no play” in the UK is damaging family life, causing high-stress levels, cutting time spent with loved ones and creating an inability to switch off from work.’ As mentioned in our previous blog, taking employees’ mental well-being into consideration can impact businesses.  Stress and anxiety can be intensified through overworking, causing staff to become demotivated. Consequentially, this impacts efficiency within the work environment.

It is evident that UK has the second lowest productivity rate of world’s richest nations as ‘hourly output was 17 percentage points below the G7 average in 2013’ (Office for National Statistics) – the widest gap in terms of productivity since 1992. This can be due to ‘Staff’s inability to take annual leave as well as the rise in presentism, which can lead to employees being less productive and healthy and in extreme cases, they could become so unwell that they have to take extended time off or leave the organisation altogether.’ www.aon.com

Therefore, encouraging staff to take holidays takes a step towards helping them to develop a good work/life balance. In turn, this improves morale, reduces stress and creates a much more enjoyable and productive workplace.

What can we do to ensure our employees take their full holiday entitlement?

  • Ensure that everyone knows their entitlement: ‘Employees’ right to paid holiday is determined by the EU Working Time Directive, which seeks to protect people’s health and safety because working excessively long hours is a major cause of stress, depression and illness. In the UK, full-time employees are entitled to at least 28 days off (including bank holidays) or 5.6 weeks. www.gov.uk
  • Create a system that fairly reduces schedule clashes within the workplace: This could be as simple as an office calendar. Alternatively, talk to our HR Consultant about a simple information system that will automate that process for you.
  • Consider employing temporary staff to cover peak holiday periods: If your company provides opportunities for young people, you may wish to employ students at peak times. This allows for more staff to take time off, without worrying about their workload. Triple Three Solutions can help with looking at the best contractual arrangement to accommodate temporary or casual employees.
  • Promote a healthy work/life balance within your business: From arranging team outings to boost morale, to ensuring staff take the appropriate amount of breaks throughout the day (including a lunch break). Did you know? – ‘Less than one in three (29%*) workers take a proper lunch break each day’ www.bupa.com
  • Set the example: This one is simple – take breaks for yourself! By taking holidays demonstrate that you appreciate the importance of time off work.

Final Thoughts:

As I continue my holiday, I notice families enjoying their time here, along with catching up on work. If we manage our time to balance ‘catching up’ with enjoying personal time, there should be little need for employees to feel that they can’t take time off. Employers should make it easier to book time off work and reduce pressure for staff to be constantly online.

Need further advice?

Triple Three Solutions are your trusted HR Consultancy in Manchester. We support you and your business to get the very best from your team. As the principle HR Consultant, I am here to ensure that you provide a great place to work; helping your business achieve and your employees stay motivated.

Speak to an HR Consultant today on 0333 050 3330 or via email at lisa@triplethreesolutions.co.uk; Learn more about employee holidays and how they can best benefit your business.