Cutting holiday entitlement: economy v. work-life balance

As financial experts claim scrapping bank holidays could save the UK economy billions, Partner Chris Setford argues the wellbeing of our workforce is far more valuable. Everyone is suffering the at the hands of the recession, so what’s the solution? Kick us while we’re down by cancelling our bank holidays, according to one think-tank. The Centre for Economics and Business Research says scrapping public holidays would save the UK economy £19bn every year & an idea that hasn’t exactly been met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Recent figures show the UK’ average working week is the third longest in Europe, at 42.7 hours. Meanwhile our eight days’ annual public holiday entitlement is the lowest in Europe, matched only by The Netherlands. Although our statutory annual holiday entitlement is a healthy 28 days, a 2010 survey found the average worker leaves seven days of this unused, with 40% claiming it’s because they’re simply too busy at work. It’ worth noting also that companies in the UK are allowed to absorb the public holidays into their employees’ statutory entitlement. So, whatever happened to an employee’s right to a healthy work-life balance? The £19bn figure speaks for itself, but it seems remarkably ruthless to ignore our human interests in favour of cold, hard financial facts. Last year, stress overtook cancer to become the UK’ number one cause of sick leave. The recession is already leading people to work longer hours for less money, with less job security. Should we really be cutting holidays as well? UK workers are under enormous pressure as it is. If we start reducing holiday entitlement, we’ll see even more stress related illness, more sick days and a decline in productivity at work. From an economic point of view, if bank holidays mean less absence, greater productivity and more money spent in the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, surely that can’t be a bad thing. But more importantly, you can’t put a price on the wellbeing of the UK’ workforce. As a country we’re already struggling to maintain the work-life balance. Let’ not push ourselves over the edge. If you feel as though you’ve been treated unfairly at work, our Employment Law specialists may be able to help. Click here for info. Chris Setford is a founding Partner at Setfords Solicitors, based at the firm’s headquarters in Guildford, Surrey.