Why businesses need to help employees take a holiday


Wish you were here: why businesses need to help employees take a holiday

Holiday entitlement has been in the news recently, with dreams of unlimited holidays in the sun. Yet the reality remains under a big black cloud.

A few weeks ago Richard Branson announced Virgin’s unlimited holiday entitlement policy, giving Virgin’s employees the opportunity to take as much holiday leave as they desired, on the condition that all of the employee’s responsibilities are completed and the business doesn’t suffer. Branson considered it a groundbreaking initiative, one that rewards employees and helps worker’s feel valued and engaged in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the newspapers jumped all over it, either pulling it apart or lauding the idea, whilst all the time giving exposure to the Virgin brand.

Fast forward a few weeks and an interesting article appeared in The Sunday Times pointing out that overworked Americans rarely take more holiday than entitled, often less. It reported that the software company, Atlassian, was running the unlimited holiday initiative before Virgin’s announcement and they claim that the vast majority of staff don’t take advantage of the offer. Far from the ideal, the reality is one an overworked America, where half of all workers do not take all their holidays, which for many is as little as three weeks in the first five years of employment! Hop over the Atlantic and the situation is only moderately improved, with 1 in 3 UK workers taking their full holiday entitlement.

When polled, the common response for lack of holiday comes down to excessive workloads and employee guilt, or even fear of looking dispensable if they take too much holiday. It is a dangerous situation that is not in the best interests of either employee or business. The European Union’s Working Time Directive states that employees should take a minimum of 20 days leave every year for reasons of health and better living. The basic entitlement in the UK is 5.6 weeks or 28 days annual leave. Too much work and excessive hours creates fatigue and stress that is harmful for employees, which from an employer’s perspective is also damaging to the business as productivity slips and engagement is replaced with animosity.

It is important to always keep in mind that paid leave is not a bonus given by the employer, but a legal entitlement, for reasons of health and improved worker productivity and happiness. As such, employers should be helping their workers take time off by relieving workloads and loosening dependencies. Evidence that employers have put pressure on an employee not to take holiday – whether directly or indirectly – could prove very damaging if brought before a tribunal.

If any of the issues raised in this article affect your business, please give us a call to discuss your options. We are happy to advise and find a solution that works for you and your business: 0800 912 7152