Employees regularly working extra hours and skipping leave

Research released today suggests that British workers are failing to take their full leave entitlement and frequently work unpaid overtime – often due to pressures from colleagues or bosses at work.

According to a report by price comparison website Travelsupermarket.com, more than one million workers will fail to take their full leave entitlement this year.

It found that workers give up a total of 6.2 million days of annual leave, with the average unused holiday standing at five days per employee. This equates to a potential £500 million worth of “free” work done by staff for their employers, according to Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist for Capital Economics.

The main reason employees are shunning their full holiday entitlement is due to pressures at work – the case for 28% of those surveyed. Nine per cent said they would feel guilty about taking holiday in case colleagues had to take on more work in their absence.

Redwood estimated that the “free” days received by UK employers in untaken holiday could amount to a boost in economic output of around 2%. However, she also warned that, without a sufficient break from work, workers could be damaging productivity.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert for TravelSupermarket said: “As we head out of a double dip recession it’s no surprise that people are wary to take all of their leave, especially if they feel pressure and uncertainty at work.”

Meanwhile, separate research found that seven in 10 British tradespeople work extra unpaid hours each week, equating to around £4.8 million in unpaid overtime every year. The research, by insurance company Direct Line for Business, found that, on average, each tradesperson completes 5.29 hours of unpaid work a week, totalling 275 hours per year or around £1,702 in wages. Just one in four report not working any unpaid overtime in a typical week.

Tradespeople in the UK also work on average 40 hours a week, with nearly half (48%) working more than that. The current average for the UK’s overall workforce is 37 hours per week, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Professor Cary Cooper, distinguished professor of organisational psychology and health at the Lancaster University Management School, said: “Even when workers do take holiday, they’re often working then too, answering emails and so on. The driver is often insecurity, so employers need to make managers more sensitive towards these feelings, encouraging them to notice when someone is working too hard or not taking holiday.”

However, he added: “The problem is that too many line managers are also working too hard, so may fail to notice it in their staff.”

For more information on working hours visit XpertHR.

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