09 Aug 2022

Support employee’s health and wellbeing by making annual leave a priority

As many Brits head away this month for their summer break, Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR warns of the importance of taking annual leave as a new survey reveals over half (60%) of employees said their employer actively discourages them from taking time off[i].

The survey by Just Eat for Business[ii] found that that 2 in 5 (40%) of office workers have had their annual leave requests either rejected or significantly amended too – meaning they couldn’t take time off work when they wanted. The top reasons for it to be refused were staff shortages (21%) and excessive workloads (16%)

They also found that 1 in 10 employees don’t feel comfortable asking for time off for mental health reasons such as burnout, and that 36% of employers have a ‘use it, or lose it’ policy around unused holiday leave at the end of the year.

Adrian says, “These findings are very concerning. Taking annual leave is important for the health and wellbeing of staff and is something that employers should make a priority. Employees that don’t take regular breaks can end up becoming stressed and burnt out, especially if they are taking on extra work covering absences and staff shortages.”

“Whilst some businesses in the UK are struggling to recruit there shouldn’t be an expectation that existing staff will take up the slack.  This is storing up trouble for the future and could lead to a rise in absenteeism as people find it hard to cope in their job.

“Employers need to be mindful that the pandemic has had a big impact on people’s mental wellbeing and taking time off has never been more vital. Whilst people can find asking for time off for mental health reasons difficult, having a policy that encourages annual leave to be taken across the year can be a way to avoid issues developing in the first place.

“Also as we move to towards the end of the year changing policies like ‘use it, or lose’ could help spread out leave so there isn’t a mad dash for people to take holidays, which could further exacerbate staff shortages and absences and make it even more difficult to get annual leave signed off.”

One way for employers to actively encourage people to take their full leave entitlement is to issue regular email reminders across the business throughout the year. Managers should also monitor their teams and keep an eye on people who may not be taking regular breaks.

Interestingly the Just Eat Business survey found that over a quarter (26%) of annual leave requests are still being processed manually, something that makes managing annual leave time consuming as well as harder to have a real time overview of who is off when and who has leave booked in.

Adrian adds, “Investing in an absence management system which also manages holiday leave requests can be really valuable. Not only does it make the whole process of requesting and getting leave signed off easier and quicker, it means managers will be able to see if someone hasn’t taken any leave.

“They can then take action, speak to the individual involved and find out if there are any issues. They can also gently remind them of the importance of taking a break and encourage them to book some time off, as well as offer support if needed.

“Looking after workers health and wellbeing is essential and encouraging annual leave, which people are entitled to, is a quick win. Plus it can make people feel valued, engaged and motivated.”

For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.

[i] https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/news/office-workers-discouraged-from-taking-leave

[ii] https://business.just-eat.co.uk/blog/annual-leave-survey