Why aren’t UK workers taking their full holiday allowance?

According to research by Tombola, 44% of employees in the UK failed to use their full holiday allowance in 2018. The research also found that 23% ended the year with 5 or more days of holiday not used. It was also found that when on holiday, 44% still regularly check their emails. What are the reasons for this and what can employers do to help?

What are the reasons?

  • 38% felt they were too busy at work to take more holiday
  • 23% said they had nowhere to go on holiday
  • 19% felt they didn’t need that much holiday
  • 8% said they enjoy work too much to use their full allowance
  • 7% said their boss doesn’t approve
  • 5% said they felt their colleagues would feel that they weren’t contributing

The first thing that jumps out from these findings is that employees almost feel pressured into not using their full holiday allowance. It’s not that they’re all necessarily opting out of using their holiday because they want to, although some said they didn’t feel the need or enjoyed work too much. Many respondents reported that some kind of pressure from either their boss or their colleagues was the reason for not using their allowance.

What employers should do

Start by speaking to everyone in the business
The first thing would be to gauge whether your employees do the same. Of course, these results are from a single study and your employees’ use of their holiday allowance could be much different. This may be something you do already or have done before.

Find this out could uncover some underlying issues that your employees are facing that you may not have been previously aware of. The study mentioned at the beginning not only shows that people aren’t using their full holiday allowance but that many actually feel they’re too busy or that they feel pressure from their colleagues.

Try to get as much feedback as possible from everyone in your business on why they might not use their leave. Even ask those who’ve used their full holiday allowance. Just because they’ve used their full allowance, doesn’t mean they might not have felt pressure to not use it.

Introduce new initiatives based on your findings
This will of course depend on what feedback you get from your employees. Let’s take the feedback from the study for example. How can employers help employees with their busy work schedule? There are many different solutions for this. One could be to offer flexible working. There are a number of studies that show the benefits of flexible working on productivity. Many employees also see it as a key perk of their job.

How can employee benefits help?

Introduce Holiday Trading
Holiday trading allows employees to buy or sell their annual leave, perfect for those who enjoy work or say they don’t need their full annual leave allowance. This way, employees don’t need to work a week for free by not using their holiday allowance and employers make tax and NI savings. 

Reduce stress with an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
For those who feel they’re too busy, it could be worth looking into how an EAP can help. An EAP can help reduce employee stress and give them a fully confidential means of support. Happier employees are much more productive. That said, you’ll need to first look into what’s causing the stress in the first place and why your employees are so busy.

The employee benefits that can help with this problem will depend entirely on the causes of the problem, however Holiday Trading is one that will almost certainly benefit employees in this situation. While you might not usually consider employees not using their annual leave to be much of a problem, as mentioned it actually could point to some underlying issues that are affecting your employees and their wellbeing. Uncovering these is vital to a happy, healthy workforce!