A recent report has highlighted the surprising number of UK workers who, for a number of reasons, fail to take their full legal holiday entitlement each year. The study, conducted by the TUC, found that 1.2 million workers receive no annual leave at all, whilst 2.2 million get less than the statutory minimum 5.6 weeks per year.
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, full time employees are entitled to this minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave each year, with employment contracts stipulating whether all public holidays or only certain bank holidays are included. Meanwhile part-time employees have their holiday calculated on a pro-rata basis, meaning those who work 2.5 days per week are entitled to 14 days paid leave each year.
The majority of workers were said to have missed out on annual leave either because they were set unrealistic workloads by their employer which fostered a culture of leavism within the organisation, or because these same employers were deliberately denying holiday requests and "managing out" people's leave.
With this in mind, organisations are encouraged to remove the obligation for staff to stay in work all year round by distributing workplace duties accordingly, ensuring appropriate support systems are in place to reassure staff their work will be handled whilst they are on leave. Additionally, those who reject annual leave requests must ensure they have a valid business reason for doing so, whilst ensuring appropriate time is set aside to allow the leave to be taken later in the year.
Preventing staff from taking annual leave comes with significant impacts, not least being that UK workers lose out on a total of nearly £3billion worth of paid leave a year. The report also attributes the lack of leave to a rise in work-related stress, mental health issues and employee burnout.
In response the TUC have called on new powers to be given to HMRC which will allow them to clamp down on employers who aren’t giving staff the leave owed to them, in a similar way to the recent naming and shaming of national minimum wage (NMW) offenders.
Organisations should consider the report a warning and ensure they take a positive approach to annual leave given the proven benefit it can have on employee wellbeing and workplace productivity. Staff should always be encouraged to place holiday requests in advance to avoid disappointment, with line managers making sure to resolve any disputes surrounding overlapping requests in a fair and timely manner.