There can be no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic was an extremely challenging time for both businesses and employees. Companies scrambled to adjust their policies and ways of working, which forced employees to modify their own behaviour. Perhaps one of the most interesting ways that the pandemic affected employees was with regard to taking holiday.

Under the rules of lockdown, many workers were asked to work remotely. This, combined with the issue that many staff were furloughed and the fact that there weren’t a lot of possibilities for taking days off, due to the fact that everywhere was under lockdown, created a confusing situation regarding holidays and taking time off. 

While trying to understand what the relatively unusual term ‘furloughed’ actually meant, working out the amount of holiday workers had then accrued added further complication. This confusion has been exacerbated with people working from home which, in some cases, led to a situation where staff were reluctant to take their outstanding holiday entitlement. However, none of this is ideal – holiday is important for a number of reasons and it is the company’s responsible to ensure employees are taking the right amount of time off. 

Employees worry about holiday pay

We sometimes take it as a given that employees want to take all of their holiday as it is a right in their contract. It doesn’t make sense that an employee would be willing to miss out on paid time off. However, this might be missing a key point that some workers do not realise that this is a right for them. 

It is the case that many workers on non-standard contracts aren’t sure about whether they receive holiday pay or are confused over how much they should get compared to those on ‘standard’ contracts. However, in reality the rules are simple, and it has been confirmed that it is the case that all workers – including those on zero-hour and irregular hour contracts – are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of holiday pay as a minimum. 

weeks of holiday pay
Beach people photo created by tawatchai07 –

Holiday is beneficial to staff

It is important for employers to recognise that holiday isn’t simply an inconvenience, but an entitlement that is healthy for your staff and your business. Unfortunately, it is still the case that some employers believe that the best way to get as much as possible out of their staff is simply to have them working longer. 

“There is nothing quite like a good holiday and it is a great chance to escape your daily routine and see new places, but these trips are also important in terms of health and wellbeing. A holiday can be a chance to improve your physical and mental wellbeing so they are experiences which everyone should be taking advantage of at least once a year” says Brenda Elazab, adding that, “despite this, many people do not go on holiday often for work-related reasons but this could have a negative impact in many ways.”

But the idea that forcing employees to work through their holiday will lead to better results for the business is nonsense. Employees taking holidays has a huge range of advantages including reducing sicknesses and absenteeism. It also helps employees to lower their stress levels and contributes to their overall wellness.

Tired employees are less productive

One issue that is very commonly overlooked by employers is that forcing staff to work without holiday is not just illegal, it can also leave them tired and unmotivated. When employees find themselves in this position, they can feel overworked and overwhelmed and this will naturally lead them to be less productive.

This fact has been confirmed by studies that have shown that employees are typically more productive when working less than 40 hours per week than they are if they are working more than 50 hours per week. 

It is very common for employees themselves to decline using up their allocated holidays. For many reasons, employees might be keen to impress, don’t feel they can afford to take time off, or are simply too busy. Some dedicated staff wrongly convince themselves that time away from work can damage the business they work in or affect their future pay rewards. In the long term, not taking time off is ill advised, and can lower both their productivity and motivation. In this situation, it is up to good employers to make sure that their team are taking sufficient holidays and benefiting from paid leave

Avoiding burnout

One of the major lessons that companies can learn from the pandemic is the challenge of burnout. During the pandemic, it was reported that 69% of remote workers were reporting symptoms of burnout. This is very worrying as workers who feel burned out are less likely to be efficient and productive. They are also likely to lose interest in their roles and to look for new positions elsewhere. To protect your talent and retain your employees,encourage your workforce to take their holiday entitlement seriously. There is no doubt that ensuring workers take their allotted holiday is a very important step in providing them with the downtime and relaxation that they need. 

Unlimited holiday?

Some businesses have chosen to take a different approach to holiday. Rather than providing staff with the contractual minimum of 5.6 weeks of holiday pay, they in fact offer ‘unlimited’ holiday. The idea is that there is no set amount of time off that an employee has to take. They can simply take holiday as and when they need it.

Unlimited holiday is certainly seen as a perk, and is presented as much by employees. However, it does come with some potential drawbacks. Part of the issue is that while in theory employees are free to take as much holiday as they like, in reality they feel a great deal of pressure to get on top of their workload and end up taking even less holiday than they are really meant to. It is worth thinking long and hard about whether this is the right solution for your business.