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1 in 5 employees can’t take time off work due to staff shortages

19 July 2022

Story by
Alex Crowther, Senior Reporter, The HR World

Staff shortages and taking time off

1 in 5 of the nation’s office workers are being prevented from taking time off work due to staff shortages and reduced resources meaning their requests are denied, a new survey reveals. 

The Annual Leave Allowances survey, from Just Eat for Business, reveals how office workers utilise annual leave allowance, how their employer promotes holiday entitlement, and how time off impacts work-life balance amidst a move towards flexible working.

Despite annual leave being key to employees taking time off work to rest and re-energise, many of the nation’s workforce are unable to do so due to staff shortages and demands.

This follows a recent report that found labour shortages were the ‘most urgent problem’ facing the UK economy right now, with over 1.3 million job vacancies and 900,000 fewer workers today than the Bank of England expected prior to the pandemic.

Excessive workloads

Staff shortages came out as the biggest disrupter of annual leave requests, while a further 26% of office workers can’t enjoy time off once they are granted it, as they’re contacted by employers to help cover unplanned staff absences and excessive workloads.

Furthermore, the majority (60%) of employees feel their employer explicitly discourages them from taking time off work, while 1 in 10 don’t feel able to ask for mental health leave.

This lack of time off is concerning, given that the survey also found 44% of employees report feeling burnt out at work, while a third find trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance to be the most stressful aspect of work.

This is despite many organisations advertising flexible working arrangements and generous leave entitlements on job adverts – only then to instil unhealthy working habits in staff.

Will Foster, Professor of leadership at Keele University, said: “It’s essential that if the values of the organisation include employee wellbeing and restorative breaks, then leaders need to allow that to happen.

“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.

Rosie Hyam, people partner at Just Eat, said: “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.

“And it doesn’t have to be a big break – organisations may want to carve out some time to ensure that employees can take a break and socialise with colleagues during the working week.”

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