Millions of UK workers miss out on annual leave

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​More than six million full-time workers are not taking their full annual leave allowance, losing them £1.3 billion collectively a year

According to a survey from Printerland, 27% of employees are forgoing an average of two days of holiday as their annual leave resets at the end of the year. The study found that £216 worth of extra work is being done per employee per year (based on the average salary in the UK).

Those working in hospitality, events management, and retail were the least likely to take their full entitlement, with an average of six days left unclaimed at the end of the year.

Ed Stacey, head of legal services at PwC, said that such high levels of unused holiday correlate with the varying demands of different sectors. “It depends on the nature of the business; some employers will encourage people to take time off at a time when they know that productivity will be low,” he said. “Retailers [however] may not be as keen on letting people have time off around Christmas when stores are especially busy.”

Office workers get an average of 25 days annual leave. But the survey found that many feel 29 days would be fairer. Meanwhile 13% said their holiday travel plans failed to match up with the time they’re allowed off, forcing them to take unpaid leave.

Stacey explained that companies are increasingly facilitating flexible holidays, with some employees choosing to take more or less time off in a particular year, without losing out on their overall allowance.

“Some of this is positive,” he said, adding: “Employers can make it challenging for employees to take their holidays when they want to take it. Lots of employees, particularly Millennials, have been asking for more flexibility when planning their time off.”

However, Stacey warned that confusion over employment status for those in the gig economy has caused a steep rise in cases of employees seeking compensation after losing out on holiday they were not aware of. “In companies like Uber, we’ve seen that many workers classify themselves as self-employed and are consequently not aware that they are contractually entitled to holiday,” he said.

Uber lost an Employment Appeal Tribunal in November, after two of its employees successfully argued they were not self-employed and so were entitled to benefits including annual leave.

Stacey stressed that HR professionals must be clear in communicating to employees the terms of their contract and how much holiday they are entitled to in order to avoid misunderstandings.

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