Out of office

Posted Wednesday 22nd May 2019

As half-term approaches, employees across the UK with school-age children will be taking the opportunity for a break and time off work. Whether it’s used to spend a few days around the house, a week in the Med or a staycation, museums, theme parks and beaches will be noticeably busier. Many fingers will be crossed for good weather.

However, whether this is their week of choice for a break or not, there’s no guarantee that all employees will take all of their annual holiday allowance.
A survey from Glassdoor last year found that two in five UK employees only took half of their holiday entitlement in the preceding year. 13% of those surveyed took only 20% of their holiday allowance. More worryingly, some 15% surveyed said that they had been contacted by their managers while out of the office on leave, and only half of respondents said they could relax completely, without giving work any thought at all.

In addition, there’s a growing sense that, with the ‘always on’ culture enabled by smartphones and slick technology, employees are more likely to be checking emails and having contact with the office while they are on holiday, in any case – whether or not there is any expectation for them to do so.

Being able to ‘switch off’ is critical to maintaining good health, both mentally and physically. Employers should monitor whether their people are taking their leave entitlement, even querying why they might not be. Staying ‘on’, or remaining ‘in’ the office, could be masking a bigger problem; maybe they need some help coping with, or delegating workload, and a holiday is exactly what is required.

On the flipside, some employers enable their people to buy extra holiday, with employers offering ‘buy holiday’ schemes, and others accruing extra holiday on a ‘time off in lieu’ basis. Provided this is managed sensibly, this offering can prove very attractive to some employees, and potential recruits.

How can we ensure that our people do take their holiday? Leading from the front, or from the top, is key. Staff take their cues from their leaders, and, if the boss is never ‘off’, it will be far more difficult for the people who work for them to feel able to relax and take their full entitlement. Being visible in taking holiday and sending the message that it is more than OK to do so, is a good thing to do and helps to encourage positive holiday-taking behaviour across a business.

We all need a holiday from time to time, and the chance to step away from the workplace. The returns can be great. Ideas and productivity need space to grow, and, even if the employee doesn’t go away, time away from the office (hopefully in the sunshine,) might be just what an employee needs.

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

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