Overworked Britons wasted 163 million annual leave days in 2016

05 July 2017 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

UK workers gifted employers an extra £17 billion in free work over 2016, as they didn’t make (full) use of their entitled holiday time.

Research commissioned by holiday firm Airtours has revealed that in 2016, 40% of the British workforce were guilty of not utilising their full holiday entitlement, with one in six employees also admitting to having more than a full working week of unused holiday spare.

The statistics – leveraged from the Employment and Labour Market survey performed by the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) – also showed UK workers waste on average five days of annual leave each year, with researchers estimating that Britons were spending less than half their holiday allowance on leisure and relaxation – as a variety of mounting economic pressures see many employees requiring holiday money to simply make ends meet.

Of the holiday time actually used, respondents said they spent an average of seven holiday days at home, with a majority of 56% admitting to using their leave performing household chores. Recent trends including the freefall of British currency values amid Brexit worries and stagnating wages which have begun to shrink against inflation have contributed to a widespread scaling back of leisure spending among the UK workforce, with many opting for cheaper “staycations” within the country, if they travel during holidays at all.

Overworked Britons wasted 163 million annual leave days in 2016

A further 32% of Britons meanwhile stated they used their holiday to go to medical appointments rather than using up sick days and unpaid leave, with the potential loss of income deterring people from leisure time in the uncertain economic era of Brexit. 17% of those polled meanwhile stated they used holiday time to deal with unexpected family emergencies, including illnesses, injuries or even extending paternity leave. However, while many workers use holiday time as income support in times of family crisis, many holiday hours are simply wasted.

Wasted time

The average UK employee failed to use around five days of annual leave, while 36% of workers polled cited having “too much on at work to take time off” as their reason for not utilising their full holiday allowance. 25% of people asked said they didn’t need to take it or even want to take time off, while over a quarter of respondents actually stated they weren’t allowed to take holiday, as it meant being off at the same time as colleagues, with 26% stating rotas had prevented them from utilising their legally mandated vacation time.

The estimated value of this total additional labour was around a £17 billion boost for UK employers – who while they were required to “pay out” the worth of holiday time not used, did not have to invest in cover for unused holiday time, on top of that allowance, meaning they saved on wages while benefitting from the continued work of employees. However, companies that fail to support put-upon employees to actually utilise their leave days could actually be missing out despite this short-term profit, with attrition meaning long-term results from the workforce could shrink. According to studies by consulting industry players BCG and EY, more than 80% of employees that have utilised leave report a positive impact on morale, while more than 70% report increases in productivity.

Stewart Davies, Commercial Manager at Airtours, stated, “We can’t believe that so many hard working Brits are missing out on their annual leave; it’s one of the best bits of the year! With work pressures and hectic daily routines, we all know how much they deserve a break from it all. So with 2017 in full swing now, and a whole new year of holiday days to take, we’re getting behind our fellow Brits and encouraging them to take some well-earned time off. And, if they choose to enjoy some time chilling out on a beach in the sun, well, who could blame them?”