A third of British workers said they did not take all of their annual leave allowances last year because their workload was too heavy to take the day(s) off.
While 13% said they felt they couldn’t take the time off and 4% were worried about what their work would think if they took off the day(s).
These findings are uncovered in a major new YouGov survey of British workers’ attitudes to holidays and absence commissioned by the business information services company, Wolters Kluwer in the UK.
The right to paid holiday comes from the EU Working Time Directive. In the UK this amounts to 28 days (including bank holidays). The purpose of the Directive is to protect people’s health and safety as excessive working time is a major cause of stress, depression and illness.
Mike Allen, Managing Director at Wolters Kluwer’s UK HR solutions division, Croner, says: “This is a real cause for concern for employers and demonstrates that many UK workers feel, for a variety of reasons that they can’t take time off. However, the problem with not taking time off is that it leads to absence through sickness which is why the Working Time Directive was introduced in the first place.”
Indeed, the UK’s trepidation about holidays may be causing more sickness-related absenteeism, or a rise in that age-old employer bugbear: the ‘sickie’.
The survey found that short-term absence is a continuing problem for UK businesses, with 49% of workers saying they had taken genuine sickness absence in the last year and 5% admitting pulling a ‘sickie’. Startlingly, 16% of younger workers (aged 18-24) admitted to pretending they were sick to take time off work, which could be linked to younger workers coming straight out of education where they are afforded more leniency.
“Managing short-term absence such as holidays and sickness is a real challenge for UK business. Organisations need to focus on interventions and management of short term absence and holidays to ensure that employees have a healthy work/life balance. Bosses should ensure that employees feel able to take annual leave without the fear of what they may return to,” adds Allen.
Wolters Kluwer has created a white paper Absence: more than just a sickness problem, which explores the issue further and offers some practical advice for business owners and line managers.