More holidays 'would boost UK productivity'

Mar 08 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Human resource managers believe that boosting the number of public holidays to bring the UK in line with the rest of the EU would boost productivity.

A survey by Croner Consulting found that more than eight out of ten HR professionals felt that increasing the number of paid days off would improve employee morale and boost the output of British firms.

UK workers have the shortest holidays and the longest working hours in Europe, with only eight bank holidays a year. However since these days are not a statutory entitlement, employers can (and some do) count bank holidays as part of annual leave.

In contrast, Italy has 16 bank holidays a year, followed by Iceland with 15 and Spain, which gives its workers 14 days off a year.

The average leave and public holiday entitlements across all EU states is 34 days. With its minimum of 20 days paid annual leave, statutory annual leave and public holidays in the UK is as little as 28 days, the lowest in the EU.

At the other extreme, Greece, Austria, and Finland provide the most time off - 37, 38 and 39 days respectively.

UK, a workers also puts in an average of more than 43.6 hours a week – far higher than any European counterpart. But despite this, the UK also has one of the EU's lowest GDP per head of the working population.

Croner's Richard Smith said that the UK's long hours culture could be contributing to occupational stress, absenteeism and lower productivity.

"Workers have seen their peers catching up with UK standards in other fields and might feel it is unfair that they’re falling behind in terms of both paid and public holidays," he said.

"UK workers tend to feel hard done by compared to other European countries due to this discrepancy, which could also be a de-motivating factor affecting performance at work.

"Arguably, more free time to relax, pursue leisure activities and go on holiday could improve performance in the workplace, as we generally return rested and refreshed.

"But, while Croner would advise clients to encourage their employees to take their full holiday entitlement, we would not specifically advise increasing paid leave as a tool to increase productivity.

"Productivity is a complex subject, influenced by numerous factors and there is no quick-fix solution for getting the most out of workers,” he added.