Dealing with employees who don’t take holiday

There is a common assumption that employees take their full annual leave entitlement.

However, numerous surveys over the years have shown that not all employees take their full holiday allowance.

Why? Some are afraid that they will fall behind on their work commitments. Others are working hard to get a promotion and/or pay rise and are worried what management will think if they take their full entitlement. There are also some individuals who feel they can’t holiday due to staff shortages.

Why do we need holidays?

The purpose of annual leave is for rest and relaxation from work. If an employee isn’t taking their full allowance or is actually working whilst on holiday, they will not be this getting much-needed rest. In the long-run, it can negatively affect the employee’s health and wellbeing as it can increase the risk of stress. It can also result in absences or presenteeeism.

What can employers do if employees aren’t taking holidays?

All employers should be periodically reviewing whether employees have taken leave and if they do notice that an employee has a lot of outstanding leave, you should remind them of how much leave they still have to take before the holiday year ends and encourage them to book.

Make sure that the workplace culture allows people not to feel guilty about taking holidays. Even if you do have staffing crisis or big order or project, you cannot pay in lieu of annual leave. This is only permissible upon the termination of employment when any accrued, but untaken leave must be paid.

What can employers do to stop employees working whilst on holiday?

Although it’s practically impossible to impose a ban on all out of hours emails and calls, you can encourage your employees to resist the temptation of checking their work phone or laptop. For those who are particularly worried about their work while they are away, you can ensure that someone is covering their projects and there has been thorough handover.

If you do notice that someone is answering emails out of standard hours, you can send them a reminder or bring it up in their next one to one meeting.  

It is also beneficial to remind managers to refrain from contacting employees on holiday unless it is an emergency. They should also be trained to spot if employee is suffering from stress and know what to do to employees who are suffering from work-related stress.   

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