Acas urges UK workers to take much needed time off work

Acas has urged UK employees to talk to their bosses about taking holiday, as four in 10 have taken less time off during the pandemic compared to before it started.

How much annual leave or paid time off employees had taken since the start of the pandemic varied depending on the size of the organisation.

Under half (44%) of employees at small to medium sized businesses said it is unlikely they will take a holiday anytime soon. 

By comparison over a third (35%) of employees in large businesses, employing more than 250 people, are now less likely to take paid time off since the start of the pandemic. 

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Acas has advised employees to use their holiday entitlement within their current leave year where they can.

Gary Wedderburn, Acas adviser, told HR magazine taking time off to get some rest can help workers with both their physical and mental health, and HR teams have an important role to play in making sure people take the time off they need.

“HR teams can advise staff that it’s a good idea to ask for holiday dates as far in advance as possible so that their employer can make arrangements," said Wedderburn.

“HR can also encourage managers to have a conversation with staff around the importance of taking holiday and keep up to date with the latest government guidance on COVID in case holiday plans are affected."

Though bosses can refuse holiday requests if they cover a particularly busy time at work, Wedderburn pointed out that they cannot refuse to let staff take any holiday at all.

“So, it’s good for staff to be flexible around holiday requests and come to an agreement on the best dates to take leave within their leave year,” he said.

In 2020, the UK government introduced a law allowing workers to carry over up to four weeks statutory paid holiday over the next two years.

This law applies for any holiday that staff do not take due to COVID-19.

As the rules for travel and quarantine have changed several times since March 2020, employees may not know if they can leave the country for a holiday.

Susan Clews, Acas chief executive, said as the lockdown restrictions ease, employers must not forget how many of their staff have not had a holiday in nearly two years.

She said: “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.

“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.”