Every employee in the UK has a basic annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks, which amounts to 28 days every year for full-time workers and pro-rata for part-time employees. The European Union’s Working Time Directive states that employees should be taking a minimum of 20 days leave every year.
Despite this, it’s widely accepted that workers feel compelled to work longer hours and take fewer days off during times of job insecurity and economic uncertainty in order to get through heavier workloads and work to tighter deadlines.
Whilst some employers may think that employees who work during their holidays are demonstrating a strong commitment to the organisation, it may actually reveal an underlying problem of over-work, which the Working Time Regulations are explicitly trying to protect workers from. Paid annual leave is an important factor in ensuring that every worker receives a rest period and time to spend with family and friends in order to avoid the exacerbation of stress issues.
For better or worse, today’s technology is making it increasingly easy for people keep tabs on incoming messages, for example using smart phones to access data remotely through the Internet. This flexible working has significant benefits for employees and organisations under the right circumstances, but people must learn to switch off completely when they are making use for the holiday time to which they are entitled.
Work-related stress is recognised as a serious occupational health issue, so employees should be discouraged from working through their annual leave. Where employees are working through their annual leave, this could suggest that their workloads and stress are not being properly managed.
For guidance on work-related health issues, including stress, visit the Fit for Work website, where you can read guides on the advice hub or ask questions through ‘live chat’ (a form of instant messaging). You can also ask a question by email or call the free telephone advice line for speakers of English (0800 032 6235) and Welsh (0800 032 6233).