Locked down Brits stack up 6 billion hours in unused annual leave

Wednesday, 07 Jul 2021

The pandemic has put many aspects of our ‘normal’ lives on hold – and new research has revealed that annual leave has been significantly affected by lockdowns and social limits.

According to a new study by Holiday Extras, British workers have hoarded holiday over the past 12 months, banking an average of 10 days per person (a total of 6 billion hours across the UK) to use once restrictions ease.

As an employer, your challenge is to help your team take this leave in a way that doesn’t lead to staffing shortages or skills gaps – both of which can impact your productivity during critical trading periods.

Employees wait for the green light to travel

Understandably, many UK professionals have been hesitant to take annual leave in recent months. Under lockdown there have been stringent rules around where people can go away, with most hotels and rental properties closed except for essential business purposes and quarantining travellers.

Green light for the travel industry

Now that the country is starting to open up, there is still a reluctance to book time off as the guidelines are unclear as to when we’ll be able to travel freely.

At the end of June, restrictions are in place that prevent holidays to most foreign countries, with only 11 regions on the green ‘free to travel’ list. To add to the holiday gridlock, some of these – such as Australia and New Zealand – are not currently permitting international tourists, even though the UK government say people can travel to this country.

But holding fire to see when the rules change is creating a logistical headache for employers, who face a major backlog of unused leave.

As we discussed in a recent blog post on how to manage leave when two thirds of your team haven’t booked a summer holiday, the climate of uncertainty is skewing traditional holiday patterns. And companies need to keep a close eye on government changes to understand how people’s annual leave usage may shift of the coming weeks.

Changing travel rules can be challenging for businesses

As the UK’s vaccination programme continues at pace, we’re all hoping for a return to normality over the summer period; preferably with time for a few days away. When the rules change however, this could trigger a number of high-pressure events for employers. For example:

  • A sudden flurry of leave requests as new countries get added to the green list
  • Unexpected leave cancellations if countries go from green to amber or red
  • Multiple staff members wanting to take the same days or weeks off work
  • Holiday bookings coming through at the last minute, as people try to make the most of changing regulations before the end of the school summer holiday

And this doesn’t factor in colleagues with the bulk of their time off still to take – especially in businesses where holiday entitlements run alongside the calendar year, and the first six months of the holiday year have already passed.

Use leave planning software to manage the post-lockdown surge

The simplest, quickest way to track holiday bookings and manage staff leave requests is to invest in an online leave management system.

For managing and sharing holiday calendars, spreadsheets or word documents are difficult at the best of times, but 2020 and 2021 have been exceptional in terms of their impact on HR. Knowledge is power for your company’s senior team, and it’s difficult to see how many days each person has left on a spreadsheet, let alone trust that it’s correct.

Digital software for leave management takes care of these calculations, so you get an instant snapshot on who’s used what holiday, and can encourage those people with most of their allowance remaining to start booking time off.

As the world opens up again and more people feel confident to book their summer holiday, a leave planning system will deliver further benefits.

For example, staff members can log their requests online, with managers able to review and approve bookings for their whole team in one central location. And it’s easy to see who has already booked time off versus who wants to take annual leave, to make sure that critical team members aren’t on holiday at the same time.

Equally, if things start moving in the opposite direction and the government decides to lock down the UK again, your workforce may decide to cancel upcoming leave. An online platform will recredit these days to their overall entitlement, so they can rebook those days off at a convenient future moment. Alternatively, leave software can be configured to prevent staff from cancelling leave, maintaining business continuity.

Give staff the holiday they want after a hard year

Your team has worked incredibly hard over the past 18 months to keep the company running in extremely difficult circumstances. The last thing most employers want to do is cause staff burnout by denying them time off. However, without managing leave effectively, your operational capabilities and service standards could suffer when colleagues start booking holiday again.

Running all your leave requests and administration through online software like WhosOff automates many of the processes involved in managing holiday. This way, you can be incredibly agile in meeting people’s requests, while ensuring you’re up-to-date with HR needs.

Try WhosOff for free to see how easily you can manage staff leave online.

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Photo by Anna Shvets, Artem Podrez, Pixabay and Shoval Zonnis of Pexels.com

By Tony Bushell

Title: Locked down Brits stack up 6 billion hours in unused annual leave
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