United Kingdom

23% of employees are not taking holiday entitlements

November 2014


Just under a quarter of UK employees are failing to take their full annual leave entitlements, research from Canada Life has shown.

The findings coincide with earlier research from Canada Life which found that 93 per cent of staff continue to work despite illness, and raises questions about attitudes towards work-life balance and staff wellbeing.

Louise Flowers, Head of Risk and Wellbeing at Aon Employee Benefits described presenteeism and the failure to take annual leave as ‘counterproductive’ for both employee and employer.

“Yet even during annual leave, many staff still find it difficult to ‘switch off’ due to taking mobile devices and laptops with them on vacation,” she said.

“Staff’s inability to take annual leave as well as the rise in presenteeism can lead to employees being less productive and healthy and in extreme cases, they could become so unwell that they have to take extended time off or leave the organisation altogether.”

Specifically, the research revealed that 1 in 10 employees said they didn’t take full annual leave due to staffing shortages and a further 7 per cent said it was due to work pressures. Poor advance planning was also cited by 17 per cent of staff.

Commenting on the findings, Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group said the figures suggested that the UK workforce was ‘under increased pressure’ to be present at work, despite illness or holiday entitlements and urged employers to do more to ‘counter beliefs’ that staff can’t take time off.

Meanwhile, similar research by TravelSupermarket found that 1.1 million adults were wasting 6.5million days of holiday, saving employers up to £676million due to staff being unwilling or unable to take time off. The TravelSupermarket research also found:

  • 15 per cent were ‘too busy’ to take holiday leave
  • 10 per cent said they couldn’t afford to take time off
  • 5 per cent said they ‘didn’t have time’ to plan their holiday effectively
  • 9 per cent were unable to coordinate taking their annual leave with friends and family.


Flowers added: “Employees are entitled to take their contracted annual leave. Employers who believe they are somehow gaining if employees don’t take their full entitlement are sadly mistaken and will eventually pay the price for not encouraging staff to take regular breaks from work. Equally, we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves well and taking time out to recharge and replenish our batteries is vital for wellbeing and maintaining a good work-life balance.”



Aon UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales. Registered number: 00210725. Registered Office: The Aon Centre, The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4AN.