Majority of UK workers fail to take full annual leave

More than half of workers forgo an average of three days leave each year, research finds.

Despite a resounding 90 per cent of employees claiming a well deserved break increases their productivity at work, the average full time worker takes just 22 days of their average 25 days allocated leave, according to a study by

They also admit to putting in an average of 70.5 hours overtime each year, saving their employers almost £1,000. 

More than two in five (45 per cent) employees admit to cancelling holiday for work, with a quarter of hardworking Brits (24 per cent) claiming they would rather forfeit the occasional day off than leave work undone or fall behind. Diligent workers will also cram in four extra hours of work on average the week before they take a break.

Other reasons Brits fail to take their full leave include a lack of organisation; almost one in five (18 per cent) say they’re so busy they forget to book time off, and one in eight (12 per cent) admit they plan their holidays poorly and end up with too many days to take at the end of the year.

According to the average British worker, the key amount of time to take off work to ensure they are feeling recharged and productive when they return is five to seven days. While away, almost a third of employees (31 per cent) like to switch off completely, but almost half (48 per cent) admit to checking emails or doing some work during their break.

In fact, one in six people (17 per cent) say they look forward to returning to work after a holiday. Of those, two in five (37 per cent) relish getting back into a routine, and almost a third (31 per cent) look forward to catching up with colleagues.

Lynn Cahillane, communications manager at says the extent to which people are prepared to put in overtime or even cancel holiday to get the job done, is a positive reflection of the UK’s attitude to work and testament to how much we value our jobs. 

‘However, everyone needs to recharge so we would encourage everyone to try and take their full allocation of annual leave. Time off restores your energy and focus allowing you to be more productive and creative on your return to work.

‘While having a team of hard working individuals is great news for employers, businesses should always be cautious of becoming over reliant on the heroic efforts of those members of staff who always go the extra mile and ensure they are taking adequate time off.’

Further reading on annual leave

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Annual leave