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Managing Annual Leave: Common Employer Pitfalls

Published: Thursday 22nd August 2019

A common business problem for employers occurs when employees accrue excessive amounts of annual leave. However, this scenario can have a dramatic impact on both employees and organisations, as mismanagement of annual leave can prove detrimental. So, what should employers avoid doing to ensure staff are taking their full holiday allowance and why does this issue pose as a real risk to the business?


annual leave word concept

The Stats

A look at recent results from surveys conducted in the UK, paints a clear picture; according to the stats, an average of 80% of employees did not book all of their annual leave in 2018, while over 65% failed to carry it over. Although, the national 28-day minimum (including Bank Holidays) is among the lowest in Europe, the average being 33 days, still only 20% of employees have used all of their allowances in the past year. Another study reveals “fear of falling behind on work” as the most common reason for failing to use the full holiday entitlement, while 45% do not take their full annual leave because they feel they are too busy.

The Importance of annual leave 

Realising the importance of annual leave for your workforce is crucial in order to avoid pitfalls. In fact, a number of benefits for employers are linked with good practice in annual leave. Staff morale and productivity are maintained when employees are encouraged to take time off. It also reduces sickness absence, as people who take regular time off are less likely to be absent from work because of ill health. In addition, it minimises the occurrence of unscheduled leave and raises the employer’s profile.

employees ready to go on holiday

Common pitfalls to avoid

As recruitment experts, at Zoek, we are fully aware of the importance of promoting work-life balance in the workplace. Overworked staff might not only lead to burnout and reduced productivity but also to high rates of absenteeism and general disengagement. So, here are some common employer pitfalls to avoid:

Staffing shortages: As an employer, you most likely want to do more with less, but at what cost? A particularly common issue for SME’s is that employees may not take leave due to staffing shortages or lack of cover. Short staffing can lead to employees feeling guilty about taking time off as well as handing over work to co-workers who are already overloaded.

Turning down holiday requests due to heavy workload: Heavy workload poses as the top reason named in a survey for employees failing to use their full holiday entitlement. As such, employers should be making sure the workload remains within reasonable levels. Workers thinking of an intimidating inbox, growing by the second will not encourage them to take time off.

angry employer

Letting employees accrue excessive amounts of annual leave: Allowing your staff to carry over holiday into subsequent leave years can lead to mix-ups unless clear policies are formed. This might prove particularly risky, if an excessive amount of days builds up, resulting in too many people taking their leave at the same time.

Withholding the right holiday-pay entitlement: Laws are not static. They evolve and constantly change, especially employment law, which is one of the fastest-developing areas. As such, it is absolutely essential employers stay up to date on any potential changes in regards to such regulations.

Neglecting to monitor and record holidays accurately: Not keeping track of staff holidays accurately can lead to major issues as it is more difficult for employers to work around unscheduled leave than pre-arranged ones. HR departments and line managers should, therefore, periodically check their employees’ leave balance and inform them in good time.


Managing annual leave efficiently is crucial, not only for your organisation’s function but also for your brand reputation. HR departments should take a proactive approach to holiday management, reviewing and monitoring on a regular basis to ensure leave is planned so that departments have adequate cover at all times.

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