15 Percent of UK Employees Work on Holiday Through Fear of Falling Behind; Substantial Number of Bosses Think It’s Okay To Contact Employees on Holiday

(LONDON, 24th May 2018) According to the Office for National Statistics, 3.3 million UK employees work more than 48 hours a week, a rise of a quarter of a million since 2001. The trend towards more work is also being seen in terms of the amount of holiday allowance taken by UK workers. According to a new survey(1) from Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, two in five UK employees polled (40 percent) reported taking a maximum of just half their annual leave entitlement during the last holiday year, with the average employee taking just 62 percent of their allowance. Of those that did use their allowance, 23 percent regularly checked emails, and 15 percent continued working through fear of getting behind and the consequences of not hitting their targets.

The online survey conducted for Glassdoor in April among over 2,000 full or part-time employed adults in the UK, analysed attitudes to working on holiday, percentage of holiday allowance actually taken along with how employees dealt with various issues while trying to take a break from work.  

Of employees who received paid holiday, 43 percent took between 91-100 percent of their allowance in the last full holiday year, while 13 percent reported taking just 20 percent or less of their eligible time off. A combined total of 40 percent took up to half their annual leave allowance across the year. When broken down by age groups, young workers were the least likely to take their full allowance, with only 35 percent of 18-24 year olds and 40 percent of 25-34 year olds taking between 91-100 percent of their allowance in their last full holiday year.

“Employees need to have candid conversations with their managers about how they can achieve a better work-life balance and book their remaining time now to avoid burn out further down the line”, said John Lamphiere, Glassdoor’s Managing Director, EMEA. “The fact that 40 percent of us take a maximum of just half our holiday allowance and a significant amount feel they need to work while being away is not a good long-term solution and will only result in employees who may want to jump ship for greener pastures. Take a day to plan out your holidays, create a schedule which works for you and your employer, then stick to it. If you don’t do it now, it may never happen.”

Although some UK employees may be using their annual leave, it seems they are still not managing to fully unwind. Just half of the employees polled (50 percent) said they could completely ‘check out’ and that there was ‘no expectation to be reachable’. However, 20 percent of the UK workforce was expected to be reachable and aware of work issues if needed. More women (52 percent) than men (46 percent) said they could completely ‘check out’, however 16 percent of women opposed to 14 percent of men worked on holiday as they feared falling behind. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the youngest age demographic (18-24) claimed their bosses regularly contacted them while on holiday, the highest of all age groups.

A high number of managers felt it appropriate to communicate with their employees while on holiday, with 15 percent of respondents saying they were contacted by their boss about a work matter, with an even higher number (20 percent) saying the same about fellow colleagues. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) admitted to simply checking work emails while being away and eight percent reported answering emails while under the influence of alcohol. Only four percent claimed to have worked on holiday to push for a promotion, with the same percentage doing so to push for a pay rise. Only three percent of women did this to engineer a pay rise, opposed to over six percent of men.

Just under a quarter (24 percent) of UK workers said they have used their holiday to interview for another job, meaning that up to 76 percent preferred to go to interviews during normal work time.

How do UK and U.S. employees compare?

A similar study(2) conducted by Glassdoor in the U.S. last year revealed that Americans weren’t great at taking their full allowance either. The survey found the average US employee took only 54 percent of their allowance compared to 62 percent in the UK, with two in three (66 percent) working while on holiday. A similar number of Americans (27 percent) were expected to be aware of work issues and be reachable, compared to 24 percent in UK. One in four Americans (25 percent) reported being in contact with their boss while away, which is far higher than the 15 percent of workers doing so in the UK. Over a third of the U.S. workforce felt the need to work while on annual leave through a fear of getting behind, which is significantly more when compared to just 15 percent in the UK.

To help employees find the right work-life balance, Glassdoor has compiled a list of relevant posts highlighting company benefits and helpful tips. Companies such as Hotjar, Smarkets, Auto Trader, BrewDog and Expedia are all going above and beyond in terms of what they offer employees. To find out more, read our latest blogs:




1.The 2018 survey was conducted online in the UK by OnePoll on behalf of Glassdoor from 20/04/18 – 27/04/18 among 2,000 UK adults aged 18 and older.

2.The 2017 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor from March 30 – April 3, 2017 among 2,224 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

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