As there are many advantages to taking time off from work, many companies make offering their staff a generous annual leave allowance a priority.

Despite this, many businesses struggle with getting their employees to use all of their holiday entitlement. This post looks at some of the reasons staff fail to use all of their leave allowance, what happens when they don’t, and what you can do about it.

Why don’t staff use all of their annual leave allowance?

  • Part of the workplace culture
    This is a situation in which staff feel uncomfortable with taking time off due to the workplace culture. This could be because they’re scared of falling behind their colleagues, which is common in high-pressure jobs like sales, recruitment, or any role with targets.
  • Trying to impress
    Here, an employee is trying to prove themselves to management, to earn a promotion or a pay rise and is reluctant to take time off as a result.
  • Workaholics
    Some employees simply enjoy working hard and are loath to take a day off!
  • Saving their holiday
    There’s also the chance that an employee is saving their annual leave for a longer holiday at some point in the year. The danger here is if their plans fall through, and they still have a large chunk of their allowance – without taking a break.

The consequences of not taking enough annual leave

  • Decreased productivity
    An employee can only work so long without a break before the quality of their work suffers; they need time off to relax, recharge, and return to work rejuvenated. Also, as an employee’s stress levels increase, communication with their colleagues can become strained. This has a detrimental effect on co-operation, collaboration, and workplace culture – causing the company to suffer as a whole.
  • Increased sickness absence
    The less frequently an employee takes time off, the greater the chance that they’ll call in sick. Again, this is as a result of mounting stress, which leaves them susceptible to headaches, as well as bugs, due to a suppressed immune system.

How can changing your annual leave policy help?

  • Carryover
    How your company handles the carryover of leave will impact your staff’s attitude to taking time off:
    If you allow staff to carry over days onto the following year’s allowance, there’s no urgency to use them all; they might choose to save them for a longer holiday. Unfortunately, this doesn’t address their need for a break in the short-term. Also, with carryover, you have to consider how you’re going to keep track of their extra days. Without an efficient way of doing so in place, such as a leave management system, you’ll only create more work for management and HR.Conversely, not allowing carryover creates a fear of loss: Now, staff know that if they don’t use their allotted days, they’re gone – and they wasted it, so they’ll make an effort to use their entire allowance.The downside, however, is that you might create a situation where multiple members of staff have substantial amounts of holiday left: Do you let all of them take time off and leave yourself short-staffed? Or, do you authorise some days and not others – and how do you decide that? These are all things your annual leave policy must address.
  • Prescribe time-off
    When staff don’t use their annual leave allowance, you can simply insist that they do so. A leave tracking system allows you to periodically review your how often your employees take leave – and request they take more. Alternatively, you could make it mandatory for staff to use some of their leave during a quiet period, like Christmas, if they have a certain amount outstanding after a certain date.Whatever you decide, be sure to make it part of your leave policy so your decisions don’t come as a surprise to your staff.