According to recent research, more than half of UK employees in SMEs don’t use all their holiday entitlement.

The Working Time Regulations 13 and 13a means employers must offer a minimum of 5.6 weeks statutory annual leave for a full time worker (this is pro-rata’d for part time workers). This leave cannot be carried forward to another holiday year, or be paid in lieu (except where employment is terminated).

As most employers offer the statutory minimum holiday entitlement, this means that 54% of employees are losing their leave and not taking the necessary rest and recuperation time. Even where employers do offer more that the statutory entitlement and employees are permitted to carry forward the additional leave days, they still may eventually lose those days as most companies have rules about how long holidays can be carried forward for.

(Please note that 2020 is an exception to this rule as the Working Time Regulations have been amended for 2020 only to take into account the COVID-19 situation- employees can carry forward up to 4 weeks into the next 2 leave years, and the remaining 1.6 weeks into the next leave year if they have been unable to take their holiday entitlement as a result of COVID-19).

Why Is Taking Annual Leave Important?

  • Employees are rested and re-energised resulting in better productivity
  • Taking regular holidays increases motivation and general morale in the workplace
  • Employees are less prone to accidents and illness – particularly stress and other mental health ailments, resulting in less sickness absence

Why Don’t Employees Take All Their Holiday Entitlement?

  • Too busy – their workload is too much, or they are worried work will build up in their absence
  • Staff shortages – employees feel responsible to cover others workload, they feel guilty about taking time off
  • Want a  pay rise – employees fear they will be passed over for a pay rise or promotion if they take holidays
  • Don’t trust others to do their work
  • Feel unable to disconnect when they do take holidays
  • Holiday roll-over – they’re saving their holidays for next year so they have more to take

How Do We Encourage Staff to Use Their Holiday Entitlement?

  • Let them know you want them to use their holidays – talk about the benefits of using annual leave, show them you are OK with them taking some down time
  • Manage those who aren’t using their days – send out reminders throughout the year or add this information to their payslip and again, talk about why they should use their holidays
  • Have a good holiday policy and make sure employees read and understand it. They need to know how to book holidays, what notice periods they need to give, etc.
  • Don’t make staff feel guilty for taking time off – have a plan in place to cover their workload and to hand back that workload when they return
  • Have a holiday chart or other centralised area where employees can see who is on holiday – this reduces the issue of booking leave when others are also away and shows that other staff are using their leave
  • Take away unused days – if you do give more than the statutory minimum holidays, remove the entitlement to carry forward or get paid for any holidays over and above this that are not used
  • Practice what you preach – make sure you and your management team are also taking time off and that when you do, you’re not working and responding to calls and emails
  • Make your holiday booking system as easy as possible – the more hoops employees have to jump through to book, the less likely they are to do it!

Do you have questions about holiday entitlement?

Give us a call at CUBE HR, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our video on a similar topic Saying No To Holiday Requests – 3 Things You Need to Know

You can also view our other videos on our YouTube channel.