Acas is urging employers to encourage workers to take time off after finding that four in 10 UK employees have taken less paid leave during the pandemic than pre-Covid times.
It commissioned a YouGov survey of 2,006 employees in June to find out how much annual leave or paid time off people had taken since the onset of the pandemic.
The results varied depending on the size of the organisation they worked for. Forty-four per cent of people at small- to medium-sized organisations had taken less time off during the pandemic than the previous 12-month period, compared with 35% of people in organisations with more than 250 employees.
Only 2% said they had taken a lot more holiday than the previous year; 3% had taken a little more; and 50% had taken about the same. Thirty-nine per cent said they had taken less paid leave.
“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 Acas chief executive Susan Clews.
Last year the government introduced a law allowing employees to carry up to four weeks paid leave from their 2020 entitlement into their next two holiday years. This might have led to annual leave backlogs.
“Whilst the easing of pandemic restrictions is good news for many businesses, many staff will be keen to use up the leave they have saved up to take advantage of the summer season,” said Clews.
“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.”
The conciliation service said that it was important for staff to take time off to rest, for both their mental and physical health, and to take their annual holiday entitlement within their current leave year where possible.
There is also a risk that employees are not properly switching off while on holiday, which could lead to burnout. Research from telecommunications provider TextAnywhere found that 35% of employees have been emailed by their line manager or colleague while on annual leave and 29% have been sent SMS or WhatsApp messages to their mobile.
Jayne Harrison, head of employment law at Richard Nelson, said: “When employees are away on holiday, most firms will adhere to this and will not expect their employees to answer any calls or emails which relate to work. Others, however, may have stipulations in place where their employees are obliged to deal with any urgent matters even when on annual leave.
“If an employee refused to answer calls or emails from the office, it would be rarer that the business would have a legal case against the employee who was taking their paid annual leave. However, this would depend on the company policy since in some cases, the organisation may have rules in place for which employees are obliged to pick up urgent work when on annual leave.”
James Bosley, marketing manager at TextAnywhere, said: “With an increasing number of employers confirming a hybrid approach to working for the foreseeable future, encouraging a distinction between work and home life is more important than ever in creating a mentally healthy workplace.”