Survey shows that employees are failing to take their annual leave entitlement during the Pandemic

A survey conducted by Warner Leisure hotels has found that the average worker took just a week’s worth of annual leave during 2020 with some opting to be paid for the leave that they could not take.   This is notwithstanding the fact that the Government amended the Working Time Regulations to allow annual leave to be carried over for up to a maximum of two years for some workers.


It also discovered that one in three workers also failed to claim their full annual leave entitlement for the annual leave year and lost on average seven days’ leave.


When calculated across the board across 24.7 million full time working adults, this means that there was a loss of annual leave of around 57.057,000 days in total.  This is absolutely staggering.


It seems that for many employees, 2021 will not fare much better in terms of taking time off, with plans in chaos amidst the introduction of the Government’s traffic light scheme for travel to overseas destinations.


The research also discovered that the main reason workers failed to take all of their allocated annual leave entitlement was due to concerns about work piling up whilst they were away with nobody to cover, being too busy in general and concerns about their job and what will happen when they are away.


It is also the position that with many staff working from home, and with no where to go, they also did not see the point of taking time off just to be stuck indoors.  In fact 48% believed that it was pointless to take annual leave due to Covid restrictions and lockdown and with many having to look after and home school their children.


The survey also found that four in ten workers said that their employer does not allow them to contractually roll over annual leave into the next year, with more than a quarter having a fear of annual leave, which prevents them taking time off.  One in three said that they had taken annual leave that they did not enjoy.


The survey is very interesting and shines the spotlight on some employers’ failures to take steps to ensure that their staff take their full annual leave entitlement on health and safety grounds.   The purpose of annual leave and the minimum entitlements (5.6 weeks)  enshrined in the Working Time Regulations are to promote the health and safety and well-being of staff.


It seems that many employees have formed the view that if they cannot travel abroad for a holiday then it is not worth taking time off.  However the UK does have some beautiful and scenic places to visit and if we remember the weather last year, especially the Spring and early Summer it was extremely warm and sunny.


The Government did actually amend the Working Time Regulations early last year to enable workers to carry over up to 4 weeks holiday up to the end of December 2022 if it ‘was not reasonably practicable’ for them to take some or all of the holiday to which they were entitled as a result of Coronavirus.   This covers staff who were furloughed, laid off, self-isolating or who were too sick, and those who were required to continue working and were too busy to take time off.


We would recommend that (notwithstanding the lawful carry over provisions from 2020), Employers have robust annual leave policies in place.  These should make it clear that annual leave must be taken during the course of the annual leave year, when convenient for the business,  even if staff have no plans to travel and that if they do not take their full entitlement then they will lose it.  It is certainly worth reminding staff and on a regular basis.


If you have any questions about annual leave entitlements during the Pandemic or more generally then contact Steven Eckett – Partner and Head of Employment on 020 7703 5034 or