Missing the boat? A third of British workers don’t understand their annual leave policy

  • Millions of UK workers failing to maximise their annual leave allocation
  • The average UK worker is entitled to 23 days annual leave each year
  • 52% of the under-45’s don’t fully grasp their holiday policy
  • Workers who struggle to take their leave also more likely to skip lunch
  • ‘Squeezed middle’ of workers aged 35-44 under the most holiday-related pressure

TUESDAY 9TH JANUARY 2018 – LONDON, UK – Millions of UK workers are failing to take advantage of their annual leave allocation according to figures released today. The research*, issued by the leading online jobs board totaljobs, found that a third (33%) of UK workers don’t fully understand their employer’s annual leave policy.

Even in the current depths of mid-winter, it is clear that many UK workers are failing to grasp the mettle and properly plan their annual leave for 2018. The research, which spoke to over 7,000 people to explore their attitudes towards holidays, found that the average UK worker is entitled to 23 days of annual leave per calendar year.

It also appears that it takes UK workers towards the end of their career to fully understand how to work the annual leave system. For example, 52% of workers aged 16-44 claim that they don’t fully understand their company’s annual leave policy

The study found that younger workers, defined as people aged under-24, are under the most pressure with an average allocation of 22 days, compared to their older colleagues who are entitled to an average of 24.5 days.

The research explored a number of different facets of UK workers behaviour around booking annual leave and identified five different typologies of people in terms of how they book their annual leave.

  • The Half-Termer – A third of UK workers struggle to manage work & family commitments. The Half-Termer’s annual leave booking pattern is likely to follow the school timetable, yet 33% of these people say work comes first compared to 25% of the general UK population.
  • The Workaholic – The Workaholic deems themselves indispensable and taking annual leave is likely to be the last thing on their minds. The Workaholic is also likely to have to cover for other members of the team when they are on leave. These people are at real risk of burnout as they are also less likely to take regular lunch breaks.
  • The Last Minute Booker – 18% of UK workers book their annual leave with less than a month’s notice. 59% of Last Minute Bookers believe that time off matters, compared to 49% across the whole UK workforce. The Last Minute Booker clearly enjoys a flexible policy when it comes to booking annual leave, but they are also likely paying a premium.
  • The Super Planner – 3% of UK workers book their annual leave over a year in advance. The Super Planner may well be super-organised, but they are less likely to be excited by the prospect of time away. 32% of these workers feel ‘happy’ when they submit their requests, compared to 40% across the UK workforce.
  • The Frequent Flyer – 70% of Frequent Flyers have the opportunity to travel for work, compared to just 50% of the population. This group spent so much time away from home working, booking annual leave falls to the bottom of their priority list.

Wish You Weren’t Here?

The research also established a relationship between worker satisfaction and their behaviour when it comes to booking annual leave. ‘Dissatisfied’ workers tend to book their holidays earlier than people who are content in their roles. Indeed, 43% of dissatisfied workers admit that they have booked some annual leave over a year in advance.

By contrast, 52% of ‘satisfied’ workers claim they book annual leave with less than a month’s notice – of course it could be that this flexibility contributes to people being happier in their work!

Younger workers were also most likely to be ‘stressed’ at the prospect of booking annual leave and tend to get their requests in earlier as a result. 60% of the under-24’s say that book far ahead to avoid clashes, compared to 45% of their colleagues aged over 55. 23% of all UK workers say they ‘struggle’ to book annual leave, with 51% say they feel pressured to take leave at certain times to fit in with their employer’s wishes.

Those who say they struggle to book their annual leave are also demonstrating other unhealthy behaviours. For example, 50% of workers who say they struggle to book their annual leave also admit skipping their lunch break at least twice a week.

The ‘Squeezed Middle ‘

The research also found that different age groups deal with the stress and process of booking annual leave in different ways. The figures suggest that workers aged 35-44 are getting the roughest deal when it comes to holidays being shared around workplaces.

Workers in this age bracket are the most stressed and put upon, as they are the age group most likely to have cover for both their juniors and seniors when they are on annual leave. 44% of workers in this age bracket have to pick up their colleagues’ tasks whilst 70% of employees have had their own annual leave requests denied by management.

Facing the opposite problem, 18% of 16-24 year olds say that taking their entire annual leave isn’t a major priority, as they don’t use it to go abroad, perhaps as a result of financial pressures.

David Clift, HR Director at totaljobs comments, ‘It is alarming that such large numbers of UK employees are struggling to manage their annual leave allocation. UK workers are working long hours in uncertain economic conditions, so the risk of burnout is very real if workers can’t establish a work-life balance.

Booking annual leave around your colleagues and employer’s existing commitments can be a minefield, so it is important that workers devise their plan armed with as much information as possible. We have identified five types of UK annual leave booker and have created some top tips that we hope will take the stress out booking well deserved time off for UK workers.’


* totaljobs research of 7,135 UK workers. For more details: https://www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/taking-holidays/.

About totaljobs:

Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 12 million visits and 3 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 130,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 170,000 jobs a month to choose from, posted by thousands of employers including Amazon, Sky, Virgin Media, DHL amongst many others.

We were formed in 1999 and we are part of Totaljobs Group Ltd, the largest and fastest growing UK job board company in the UK. Our head office is in London, and we also have offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow.

In turn, Totaljobs Group Ltd is a significant division of StepStone Group, one of the largest job board companies in the world and a subsidiary of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds.

Visit the totaljobs website: www.totaljobs.com