A quarter (25%) of UK employees did not use all of their holiday allowance in 2012, with one in 10 (11%) feeling too guilty to use all of their annual leave, new research has shown.
Of this one in ten, some employees were also actively encouraged to stay in work by their organisation, according to the Canada Life Group Insurance survey.
Many workers found their holiday arrangements scuppered due to issues such as other employees taking time off when they wanted to (18%), while 14% of employees felt they had to stay at work due to staffing issues - such as colleagues being on maternity leave or leaving the company.
Younger workers appeared to be the most likely to not use full holiday entitlement, with 31% of workers under 30 not taking all their holiday.
Over a quarter who did not use all of their annual leave said it was because they didn't need to or simply preferred not to. Meanwhile, 5% chose to take part in programmes that allowed employees to sell their holiday back to their employer.
The statutory minimum for paid holiday entitlement for almost all UK workers is 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year - which equates to 28 days for employees working 5 days a week. Companies can choose to include bank holidays in this entitlement. For example, an employee working 5 days a week with 28 days holiday entitlement but with bank holidays included, might have an entitlement of 20 days on their employment contract.
However, the survey showed considerable variation in how much holiday was offered, with nearly a third of full-time workers asked receiving less than 25 days of annual leave a year.
In contrast, over a fifth (23%) of full-time workers surveyed were entitled to more than 30 days of annual leave, with older employees perhaps who had been with the company longer and were higher up the career ladder, most likely to be awarded extra holiday. Overall, 34% of those aged 51-65 were entitled to more than 30 days holiday.
Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) of workers admitted to using their holiday allowance while off sick at some point, in an attempt to avoid gaining a poor sickness record or falling foul of their employer's sickness absence policy.
"While it is ultimately an individual's responsibility to ensure that they make full use of their holiday entitlement, the fact that over one in ten of UK workers felt too guilty or were actively discouraged from taking a holiday by their organisation suggests employers need to do more to create a guilt-free atmosphere when it comes to using annual leave," said Canada Life Group marketing director Paul Avis.
"Having a break every now and then is vital to ensure workers achieve a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout and stress-related illnesses. Employees shouldn't feel afraid to book a holiday and using up annual leave whilst off sick is essentially a waste of time off that should be used to recharge your batteries. Workers will be healthier and ultimately more productive if they feel they can make full use of the holiday that they are legally entitled to."
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