Four in 10 workers have taken less holiday during pandemic, survey finds

Experts urge employers to prepare for ‘high volumes of clashing requests’ as staff look to take leave accrued during lockdown

Workers are being urged to talk to their line managers about taking holiday, as research has found that four in 10 have been taking less time off during the pandemic.

The study, commissioned by Acas and conducted by YouGov, found 39 per cent of UK workers took less paid time off work during the pandemic when compared to the year before, with employees from small and medium-sized businesses the least likely to take paid time off.

Acas has suggested this might be a result of legislation, introduced in 2020, allowing employees and workers to carry over up to four weeks' statutory paid holiday not taken because of coronavirus into their next two holiday leave years.

“Our poll findings are unsurprising as many workers may have taken advantage of a new law introduced last year, which allows them to carry over most of their paid time off into this year,” said Susan Clews, chief executive of the non-governmental body.

She added that while the easing of restrictions would be good for business, it would also mean many members of staff would now be looking to the holiday they have saved.

"Acas advice is for employees to agree any holiday plans with their managers and keep them updated on any new Covid developments that could impact work, such as travel quarantine or being asked to self-isolate,” said Clews.

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However, Kate Marchant, a consultant at Running HR, warned that employers could be facing “a bit of a headache” from the large number of employees carrying over unused annual leave from the previous year. Because of this, firms “may have high volumes of clashing holiday requests”, she said.

“Having a well-established policy which not only stipulates the rules and notification requirements around taking holiday, but one which also actively encourages employees to take time off throughout the holiday year, can help deal with these sorts of situations,” said Marchant.

She also advised employers to have individual conversations with employees who have amassed a large amount of holiday to agree a plan for when excess leave can be taken.

“Of course employers are able to specify when their employees can take leave: however, this may cause resentment in some cases if it does not coincide with the employee’s holiday plans,” she said.