Acas urges workers in Britain to speak to their bosses about taking holiday as 4 in 10 report taking less time off during pandemic

New research by Acas has found that around 4 in 10 British employees (39%) have taken less paid time off work during the pandemic compared to before it started.

Acas commissioned YouGov to ask British employees about how much annual leave or paid time off they had taken since the start of the pandemic when compared to previous years. 

The poll also found that the results varied depending on the size of the organisation:

  • 44% of employees at small to medium sized businesses (249 employees or less) were less likely to have taken paid time off
  • 35% of employees in large businesses (250 or more employees) were less likely to have taken paid time off

Acas advice is that it is important for people to take time off to get rest, to keep both physically and mentally healthy and to use their holiday entitlement within their current leave year where they can.

Susan Clews, Acas Chief Executive, said:

"Our poll findings are unsurprising as many workers may have taken advantage of a new law introduced last year, which allows them to carry over most of their paid time off into this year.

"Whilst the easing of pandemic restrictions is good news for many businesses, many staff will be keen to use up the leave they have saved up to take advantage of the summer season.

"Acas advice is for employees to agree any holiday plans with their managers and keep them updated on any new COVID developments that could impact work such as travel quarantine or being asked to self-isolate."

Acas has advice for employers and employees on taking leave, what the rules are and what has changed as well as information on what to do if you need to self-isolate when returning from abroad.

In 2020, the Government introduced a law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks' statutory paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday that staff do not take due to COVID-19.

Acas advice on taking paid time off includes:

  • workers should try and make requests for paid holiday throughout their holiday year
  • if holiday plans suddenly change due to COVID-19 then employees should get in touch with their boss to agree alternative options for time off
  • get any time off requests in as soon as possible as employers need to plan staff cover for their businesses and are unlikely to agree to staff all taking holiday at the same time

It's important to check the latest government guidance before and after travelling:

  • people who need to self-isolate should not leave their home to go to work but can work from home if it's agreed with their employer
  • if an employee cannot do their job from home, they should talk to their employer to agree what type of leave to use
  • employees and workers are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they're self-isolating after travel abroad and cannot work from home – but an employer can choose to pay them sick pay at the same rate as SSP or a higher rate if they want to

Read our full advice:

Media enquiries

Contact the Acas press office

Background notes

1. Acas commissioned YouGov to employees in a representative sample of British businesses. The survey was carried out online and the total sample size was 2,006 employees. Fieldwork was carried out between 15 and 28 June 2021. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc and have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

2. Participants were asked "Thinking about the last 12 months (i.e. since June 2020), compared to the same period in a normal year (i.e. pre-pandemic)...Would you say you have taken more or less annual leave, or is it about the same?"

For employees from all business sizes:

  • 2% said a lot more
  • 3% said a little more
  • 50% said about the same
  • 19% said a little less than usual
  • 20% said a lot less than usual
  • 1% said did not know or could not recall
  • 5% said it was not applicable to them

For the 1,043 employees polled at small to medium sized businesses (businesses with fewer than 250 employees):

  • 2% said a lot more
  • 3% said a little more
  • 43% said about the same
  • 21% said a little less than usual
  • 23% said a lot less than usual
  • 1% said did not know or could not recall
  • 7% said it was not applicable to them

For the 963 employees polled at large businesses (businesses with 250 employees or more):

  • 2% said a lot more
  • 3% said a little more
  • 57% said about the same
  • 18% said a little less than usual
  • 17% said a lot less than usual
  • 1% said did not know or could not recall
  • 4% said it was not applicable to them