Stress-cation: a quarter of UK workers struggle to book time off work

  • Millions of UK workers failing to maximise their annual leave allocation
  • A quarter (23%) struggle to book time off
  • Over a quarter (26%) of 16-24 year olds find taking annual leave stressful
  • Over a third (38%) of Brits have had annual leave denied
  • 60% of Brits prefer shorter breaks to a long holiday due to pressures in taking time off
  • One in five of 16-24 year old employees don’t go away abroad
  • Read more about how UK workers are taking their holiday, and what type of holiday-taker you are here:

April 2018 – London, UK – As the spring season rapidly approaches and workers around the country gear up for their first holiday of the year, new findings released today reveal taking time off is a stressful and difficult event for millions of workers.

The recent Easter break has focused a lot of workers’ minds and for many, the rush is now on to either use up untaken holiday days or lock out the most in-demand weeks this summer. This flurry of activity is leading to holiday power-struggles amongst colleagues in workplaces across the country.

Stress & Relaxation

While holidays are designed to provide a well-needed rest from the day to day worries of work, the findings highlight that booking off holiday brings its own stresses, which are most prominent in younger workers.

The research*, issued by the leading online jobs board totaljobs, found just under a quarter (23%) of workers struggle to book time off, believing that their work has to come first.

Over a quarter (26%) of young workers, defined as people 16-24 years old, found booking time off stressful compared with just 12% of 55-64 year olds – for junior workers this can be attributed to not feeling they’ve earned the right to book time off or pressure from more senior staff.

To cope with the added pressures of booking time off, younger workers are in fact more likely to book ahead to try and avoid clashes with colleagues or other potential hurdles.

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of 16-24-year-old workers stated they booked holiday off early (over 12 months in advance) compared with under half (45%) of 55-64 year olds.

Stresses and difficulty in booking holiday is seemingly adding to the changing face of the UK holiday. 60% of respondents stated they’d rather take a series of short breaks than a traditional long holiday – perhaps partly due to the difficulty in taking multiple days off in a row.

In fact, over a third (38%) of Brits admitted to having annual leave denied in their careers.

An age gap

What’s clear from the research is that booking time off affects workers of different generations in different ways.

The study found that younger workers 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 figures also 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 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.

In turn, workers in this age bracket are also most likely to be denied leave as employers become over-reliant on them in filling in for others.

However, it is clear that booking time off is stressful for all, as nearly a quarter (24%) of all respondents said they felt stressed when team members were off

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

What kind of holiday-taker are you?

From exploring the different behaviours surrounding booking holiday, totaljobs have 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 and 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.

Martin Talbot, Director at totaljobs comments, ‘It is alarming that such large numbers of UK employees are struggling to book 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. ‘

– ENDS –

* Totaljobs research of 7,135 UK workers. For more details:

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.