A third of British workers will not have taken their full holiday entitlement this year, despite complaints of being overworked, a new survey has concluded.
This could mean more than £14.5bn worth of unclaimed holidays going to waste this year, according to the survey by employment law and HR firm Croner.
But the organisation has argued employers could be the real losers, as insufficient holiday time leaves staff struggling to achieve a proper work/life balance, at risk of stress and other health problems, which in turn can have a negative financial knock-on.
The poll found that just one in five people whose holiday entitlement runs from January to December have taken their full allowance.
More than a quarter still had seven or more days left, and a further 26 per cent had between four and six days remaining.
Of the 33 per cent who said they would not be taking their full entitlement this year, seven per cent – the equivalent of 2.2 million of the total working population – would lose the holiday altogether.
A total of 21 per cent expected to be able to carry it over to next year and four per cent opting for payment instead.
The survey also found many employers needed to brush up on the legal aspects of annual leave, as European working time regulations stipulated that all employees should have a minimum of four weeks' paid leave, yet many did not.
Employees most a risk of missing out were those who had not planned their annual leave far enough ahead.
Seventy-two per cent of the 536 people polled admitted to sometimes or regularly booking leave at a moment's notice, with six per cent booking time off at the very last minute.
Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner, said poor planning and management of annual leave policies was to blame for the billions in holiday debt that UK employers owe their staff this year.
Employers had a lot to gain through making a New Year's resolution to help staff achieve better work-life balance in 2006.
"It's not surprising that many staff complain of feeling stressed and tired when they aren't taking even the minimum end of their holiday allowance," he said.
"We advise our clients that they have a health and safety duty to all staff under Working Time Regulations to ensure they take adequate rest and breaks – and that includes giving them the best opportunity to take their full four weeks' statutory leave entitlement," he added.
He continued: "Our survey has revealed a situation where the nation has a backlog of annual leave with not enough time to take it in.
"Many employers offer alternatives, such as carrying the holiday over, but this really should only happen when there is a genuine business need and should not be an everyday practice," he added.
"The employer has a responsibility to monitor annual leave requests to make sure they are reasonably spread over the course of the year.
"This will hopefully ensure that the only last minute rush at this time of year is for the Christmas shopping!" Smith concluded.