Two in five employees have access to flexible working to manage pressure of Christmas

More than two-fifths of employees (44%) have access to support and flexible working at Christmas to help cope with the pressure of the festive season, according to research by Benenden Health. 

The research, which surveyed 1,000 small to medium enterprise (SME) business owners, and 1,000 employees, also found that almost three in 10 (28%) employees say their most desired workplace benefit would be flexible working. However, only two-fifths (38%) of employers offer this.

When it comes to taking sick leave at Christmas, 15% of those absent took time off specifically to manage mental health and anxiety issues heightened by the pressures of Christmas; younger employees were the worst affected, with 19% taking time off for this reason.

More than one in 10 (13%) respondents admitted to having taken unapproved leave during the festive period due to either personal health or family care commitments, with a further 20% saying the reason was to see a GP. Just under a fifth (18%) have taken unapproved leave to look after an elderly parent, and 16% took time off to look after their children during school closures.

A quarter (25%) of employees confessed to taking sick leave due to over indulgence at the Christmas party, and 20% have lied to their employer about the reason for doing so. This has not gone unnoticed by employers, with 15% noting greater levels of unapproved absence at Christmas.

Helen Smith, chief commercial officer at Benenden Health, said: “We associate Christmas with joy and celebration, but in reality, it can be a really stressful time at work, especially when employees have a significant amount on their plate both inside and outside the workplace.

“By listening to workers and catering for their unique needs, in this instance offering flexible working over the festive period, especially for younger employees, or having a suitable healthcare policy in place to allow for easy access to medical appointments and GPs for all the family, [employers] can minimise stress, absenteeism and ultimately increase the productivity of a workforce and overall performance of a business.”