Staff Annual Leave: A Hassle or a Piece of Cake?

The importance of taking annual leave along with the positive effects on the companies and their employees should not be underestimated.

Peter’s Story

Peter is an HR manager of a medium-sized tech company.

As he sits down in his office chair Monday afternoon to catch a breath before diving into work again, he runs through his mind the tasks he still has to do,

“Okay, I have to review the applications for the jobs we posted last week. I remember there are also several staff annual leave requests waiting for me in my inbox. I’ll need to check each individual’s leave balance and input requested dates into the calendar. Hmm, got to schedule meetings with Derek and Alice to discuss if the requested dates are okay. Hope not too many of them clash with one another. Wait, Derek won’t be in the office until next week. Ugh, I think my headache just got worse. Gosh, maybe I should file a request for leave, too.”

Mary’s Story

Mary is a second-year software engineer at her company.

She and her colleagues haven’t been sleeping much recently as they work on a project due next Tuesday.

With tight deadlines for each project she’s worked on, Mary hasn’t been able to use her holiday entitlement this year yet.

As the year nears the end, she realizes that she needs to find a chance to use up her annual leave.

At the same time, she’s worried the additional amount of work her colleagues would have to cope with when she’s on holiday feasting on the variety of crêpes in France,

“I’m going to miss out on discussing the details for our next project if I take a break. Will my colleagues be mad that I’m enjoying myself while they’re working? Is it even okay for me to take a longer break?”

How can we solve Peter’s and Mary’s problems? Read on as we discuss the problems, benefits, and solutions of staff annual leave.

Employees are not Taking Advantage of their Holiday Entitlements

The stories described above are not referring to a specific person or company, but the scenarios explain possible thoughts that run through the minds of managers and employees as they deal with holiday entitlements.

Similar to Mary, numerous workers throughout the world do not spend their entire holiday allowance due to various reasons which will be discussed in the next section.

Glassdoor’s 2014 UK Annual Leave survey reported that 50 percent of UK workers did not spend their full annual leave despite having a statutory minimum holiday entitlement lasting 28 days long.

Of those who did spend their leave days, each UK employee used only an average of 77 percent of his or her vacation.

A statutory minimum holiday entitlement doesn’t even exist in the United States, but 77% of private-industry employees have access to some form of paid leave according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, a research conducted by U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off revealed that a record high 55 percent of American workers failed to use all of their annual leave in 2015, which means a total of 658 million vacation days had been forfeited with 222 million of those days unrecoverable – no rolling over, no payout, no substitute benefit.

Similar phenomena occur across the world. Expedia’s 2015 Vacation Deprivation Study reported 53% of workers globally feel “very or somewhat vacation deprived”.

The study claimed South Koreans as the most vacation deprived employees who only use 6 vacation days per year compared with the global average of 20 days.

In addition, Expedia pointed out that 11 percent of Australians or 2.5 million Aussies did not use any of their holiday entitlement.

Employees’ Reasons for Not Using Full Holiday Entitlements

Sometimes leave accrual occurs simply because employees wish to save up for a longer vacation that often doesn’t happen.

Workers might postpone scheduling holidays and end up attempting to squeeze in their holidays near the end of the year with last-minute scheduling.

Employees might encounter difficulties with scheduling holidays around coworkers’ leave, projects, or important meetings.

Oftentimes, it boils down to being too busy. Professionals feel time pressure with the never-ending work load.

In a recent Robert Walters Career Lifestyle Survey, 44 percent of IT professionals did not take full advantage of their annual leave and 54 percent of them attributed the reason to working on projects with tight deadlines.

Employees might also be worried about burdening their coworkers with additional work and wary of what colleagues say about them while they’re gone.

Investors in People disclosed that 1 in 10 employees experience guilt over leaving coworkers for vacation.

Some workers express that companies subtly disapprove taking holidays and worry that using too much of their annual leave might make them appear uncommitted, leading to redundancy.

Hilton Hotels and Resorts discovered that when people do go on holidays, 3 out of 10 of employees still worry about work.

Glassdoor found that 44 percent of employees work during their holidays.

Furthermore, Hilton disclosed a quarter of workers were even called into office during their leave period to make sure everything was working fine at work.

Benefits of Taking Holidays

Holidays offer a chance for people to relax and unwind.

Spending time away from work helps recharge the person physically and emotionally.

Many people find that holidays are opportunities to jump out of the workplace to see the world in a different perspective, which in turn spurs their enthusiasm and creative senses.

By the time they return to work, their renewed spirits bring about more social interaction between employees, resulting in productivity increase and a higher bottom line.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans describes that workers can be 40% more productive when they are allowed to take annual leave.

With happier and less stressed employees, the company’s employees will be generally healthier, decreasing the need for sick leave.

Fewer accidents could happen at work when workers are not fatigued, depressed, or uninterested.

Australia’s National Occupational Health and Safety Commission calculated that the cost of work-related accidents and diseases amounts to $37 billion, emphasizing the importance of providing the environment and options to care for employee wellbeing.

Employees who take their entire annual leave can help the company shrink costs.

Well-rested workers lead to a decrease in workplace accidents and lower number of sick leave, which ultimately cuts costs for the company.

Remind employees to use their paid holiday allowance to reduce leave accrual, or else the company may accumulate a large liability and be required to deal with a hefty cash outflow when employees resign.

So, instead of plugging numbers into the absence calculator to calculate costs from absenteeism, recognize and value the positive impacts holidays can have on your employees and company.

What Can Employers Do?

When the company shows that it cares about its employees’ work-life balance by supporting and enforcing leave benefits, the company not only gains a better reputation, but also helps retain employees.

A Hay Group survey explained that only 17 percent of workers considered leaving companies with accommodating work-life balance plans within the next 2 years versus 27 percent workers in companies with poor work-life balance.

Recognize and value the positive impacts holidays can have on your employees and company

So, examine the leave policies and work-life balance plans at your company and observe if employees are utilizing them.

Foster a culture that’s comfortable for workers to request, discuss, and schedule their leave. Encourage your employees to take breaks regularly and use up their holiday allowances.

Last of all, be an example. Show them that it is really okay to enjoy full holiday entitlements by going on a vacation yourself!

Let them know that with proper planning and work delegation beforehand, business can still go on when they’re on holiday – sun tanning at the beach, eating crêpes, spending time with family, or just getting a good amount of sleep.

Improve Staff Annual Leave Management with HR Software 

A staff annual leave system is required to allow employees to schedule holidays, sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, you name it.

You need an HR software that eliminates the unnecessary hassle of inputting individual request dates, tracking leave balance, and matching employee schedules so that executives and HR managers, like Peter, can focus on the recruiting, training, and retaining aspects of the company.

Show your employees that it is really okay to enjoy full holiday entitlements

Your employees, like Mary, need an HR software that provides a shared calendar showing when colleagues are out of the office to plan their holiday dates before submitting their own leave requests for approval.

And yes, CakeHR understands that.

Therefore, the HR Bakery Ltd has solved the problems by presenting CakeHR’s software which efficiently manages and organizes staff leave.

CakeHR is named as one of the top 5 HR solutions by GetApp. The software tool is customisable, easy to setup, intuitive, and accessible from any device.

By automating every step of the process, from checking leave balance, planning, sending requests, informing manager’s approval, to recording and updating each employee’s entitlements, CakeHR helps managers and employees save time, so they can focus on more important tasks.

Our convenient HR software reduces the leave approval process from endless communication over a few days to a matter of minutes.

It’s your HR, simplified.


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Kristin Lin is a contributor on CakeHR. She is interested in the trends and practices of various fields in the professional world. With a UC Berkeley degree in Integrative Biology and Economics, she continues to pursue the intersection of business and science as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship program.

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Written By

Kristin Lin

Kristin Lin is a contributor on CakeHR. She is interested in the trends and practices of various fields in the professional world. With a UC Berkeley degree in Integrative Biology and Economics, she continues to pursue the intersection of business and science as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University’s Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship program.