Here in the UK, we seem to have one of the most generous paid annual leave cultures, especially when compared with other westernised countries. In the UK, the statutory minimum is 5.6 weeks (including bank holidays), which works out as 28 days for a full-time employee. This may not seem like a lot – or enough if you enjoy a good break! – but is actually a lot more than most. The USA, for example, doesn’t actually have a statutory minimum for annual leave, rather the decision is left up to the individual employer. It is suggested that most employees will allow for 10 days of paid annual leave after 1 year of service, with this increasing to 14 days after 5 years. However, some offer no paid annual leave at all, meaning that employees are forced to take time off on an unpaid basis. At the other end of the scale, Swedish workers can look forward to 25 annual leave days, plus 11 public holidays, giving them a total paid holiday allowance of 36 days.
In the UK, many companies offer additional annual leave as a perk, whether it be an extra day per year of service (usually capped), extra time off for certain milestones or merely as a sales incentive. Schemes for buying/ selling annual leave have also become increasingly popular over recent years, which can be a really good way for employees to either enjoy some extra time off or not miss out if they don’t manage to take the full allowance. Another common idea is that annual leave can be carried over into the next year if allowable by the employer, although this is usually capped to ensure that several weeks of extra annual leave are not being built up.
Issues can arise when employees do not use their annual leave allowance, and this is something that should be monitored by the employer. Annual leave is provided for a reason and the statutory minimums exist so that employees are able to take (hopefully) well deserved breaks from their work, helping to keep them enthusiastic, productive and adding to your bottom line. If you notice that there are certain employees within your organisation that consistently do not take a break from work, then this is something that should be addressed.
It’s important to remember that annual leave means different things to different people. For some, it’s their opportunity to jet off into the sunshine and explore different cultures, whereas for others it can be as simple as taking some time off to do some home improvements, catch up with “life admin” or just curl up with that really good book that they haven’t found the time to sit down with yet. Although this is the case, many employees can feel that if they are not actually going on holiday, they shouldn’t be taking the time off. Surveys have also shown that employees often think that they do not actually have the time to take annual leave owing to the demands on the business. If this is the case, then it’s definitely your responsibility to sit with your employees and work out a plan for when time off can be booked. For example, seasonal recruitment firms, such as education or companies that do a lot of business with the Nordics, should look to having most of their employees taking annual leave during the Summer months as this will coincide with an off-peak business period.
Ensuring that your employees have a break away from work is really important and is something that you as an employer really should be keeping an eye on. This will help to keep your employees happy, productive and generating profit.