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Work hard, play hard: Do workers deserve more holidays after the pandemic?

People jump into the sea
People jump into the sea   -   Copyright  Canva
By Nichola Daunton

The pandemic meant that very few of us were able to go on holiday in 2020, and things didn’t improve much in 2021 either. COVID-19 has caused millions of people to miss out on their annual two-week holiday in the sun, with many of us choosing a staycation or a quick weekend minibreak instead.

The pandemic has also seen us working longer hours, with home working blurring the lines between leisure and work. On top of this, when we did take our annual leave, it often meant much of the same. Sitting around the house, just like every other day.

With so much relaxing holiday time lost, what can employers do to make sure their workforce get the holidays they deserve?

Should businesses be giving their staff more holiday time post-pandemic to make up for the loss? Or, with successive lockdowns taking a bite out of many businesses pockets - can they afford to give their staff more paid leave?

To find out how people feel about their annual holiday entitlement, we asked some employees for their thoughts.

Are workers satisfied with their holiday entitlement?

A Twitter poll carried out by Euronews Travel on 8 December 2021 revealed, rather unsurprisingly, that 68.5 per cent of respondents would like more holiday days.

A further poll uncovered that the average respondent had between 20 and 30 days of holiday leave per year. While 22.2 per cent of people had less than 20 days.

A lucky 21.8 per cent meanwhile, had 30 days per year or more.

What about companies with unlimited holiday schemes?

In recent years, some companies - particularly tech start-ups - have been offering their employees unlimited holiday allowances.

“I definitely take more than I used to and I’m sure more than I would if I went elsewhere.”
Finance start-up employee

One 34-year-old British employee who works for a finance start-up with this unlimited policy told us, “I definitely take more than I used to and I’m sure more than I would if I went elsewhere.”

The picture isn’t always so rosy though. Workplace pressure means some workers feel guilty about taking more days, and consequently end up taking less than they would if they had a set amount.

If firms don’t have to account for holiday days either, it means they don’t have to pay workers for any unused holiday when they leave their job, meaning employees miss out.

Some companies have taken things a step further and adopted environmentally-friendly holiday policies. Greenhouse PR has a Climate Perks Scheme and offers their employees extra holiday days, as long as they don’t fly to their destination.

What about holiday carry-over policies?

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A woman works on a laptopCanva

Another symptom of the pandemic was people not using all of their annual leave because they thought it was a waste of time. Why have the day off to sit around your house, when you’re already doing that anyway?

Why have the day off to sit around your house, when you’re already doing that anyway?

Many also found that keeping themselves busy helped them to cope with COVID-19 anxieties, which led to them working longer hours than they would in the office.

A 31-year-old tech industry employee who gets 25 days of holiday annually, plus a day off for her birthday, spoke to Euronews Travel about this phenomenon.

“I do think people should be allowed a generous carry-over policy - but also people still need to take a break even if it's sat on their sofa - and companies should be encouraging that too.

“I think greater flexibility with home working is probably more useful than extra holiday days. But definitely carrying over a nice chunk of unused holiday, ‘use it or lose it’ is very unfair!”

She initially thought that companies should give their staff more annual leave post-pandemic to make up for lack of holidays “but then the pandemic kept going - if it goes on for another year, then that’s not very sustainable.”

What about frontline workers?

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Frontline health workersCanva

One group that definitely deserves extra holiday time is frontline workers. The people who dedicated themselves to helping us through the pandemic, often at their own risk.

One 28-year-old NHS worker we spoke to, believes time off would help avoid future problems for NHS staff.

“I do think that extra time off for staff who have directly supported the public in their difficulties during the pandemic, whilst dealing with their own, would be beneficial in avoiding eventual burnout as the pandemic continues,” she tells Euronews Travel.

“I work in primary care, not in a front line hospital setting, and I believe those staff members should absolutely have priority.”

What can companies do to help their staff recover from the pandemic?

Following in the footsteps of dating app Bumble, which gave its staff a week off back in June 2021, Nike gave its head office employees in the US a week off in August to recover from pandemic-related stress.

While big firms can afford to do this, small businesses may not be so lucky.

In the UK in 2020, nearly 400,000 private sector businesses closed their doors for good. And while the furlough scheme gave many employees a long ‘holiday’ they weren’t expecting, many workers took a 20 per cent pay cut.

British Chancellor Rishi Sunak has just announced a £1 billion (€1.17 billion) bailout for hospitality firms affected by the omicron wave, for many companies this simply won’t be enough to keep them afloat, let alone give their staff more holiday.

Let’s hope 2022 will mean more holidays we don’t have to cancel.