Anni Townend, Leadership Partner

Leave requests denied due to understaffing, survey reveals

Only one-third likely to have a break before Christmas

One in three UK office workers will not be able to take any annual leave between now and Christmas due to staff shortages, according to The Annual Leave Allowances survey from Just Eat for Business.

In the survey, UK employees were asked how and when they utilise their annual leave, whether they are encouraged to take breaks, and how time off impacts their work/life balance.

Annual leave is essential for rest, relaxation, and re-energisation, but the survey results revealed that many workers are forced to ‘burn the candle at both ends’ due to understaffing.

According to findings, 21% of office workers regularly or always have their time off requests denied due to staff absences, and 16% repeatedly have their annual leave requests rejected to accommodate workloads. In addition, the research showed that one in three people are set to have their annual leave continually rejected between now and Christmas due to a lack of resources, thereby further depleting their work/life balance.

The trend is unlikely to change for the rest of the year, with many workers with children working hard to make up for drops in productivity over the summer holidays and ahead of the October half term.

A recent report listed labour shortages as the ‘most urgent problem’ facing the UK economy. Over a third of UK businesses regularly have to turn down work due to staff shortages, and this is projected to continue for the next two years.

The survey revealed that even when employees can get time away from the office, 25% cannot avoid working while on holiday, as they’re likely to be contacted to help deal with absences or work queries.

The lack of annual leave has also resulted in 16% of employees using their allowance to cover medical appointments.

The mental health implications are also great, with 44% of employees feeling burnt out at work, with a third finding that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is the most stressful aspect of work.

Will Foster, Professor of Leadership at Keele University, commented: “It’s essential that if the ‘espoused’ values of the organisation include employee wellbeing and restorative breaks, then leaders need to prioritise that. “

“Management must do the hard work of ensuring the structures, roles, responsibilities and staffing levels align so employees can take a ‘true rest’ when needed, regardless of the time of year and understaffing issues.”

Anni Townend, Leadership Partner, added: “Annual leave is an important part of a much bigger picture of looking after our life-work balance and of creating a positive work culture, particularly throughout the festive period.”

“The danger of not taking annual leave is that we lose our ability to switch-off and to disconnect from work. This can impact our sleep patterns and our ability to concentrate, as well as cause extreme mood swings and a weakened immune system.”

Rosie Hyam, People Partner at Just Eat, also commented: “Given the emphasis on employee well being and work-life balance over the last few years, it’s essential that employers are receptive to flexible working arrangements, and that they allow employees to take time away from work when needed.”

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