According to research by the TUC, one in 12 workers in the UK are not getting their legal holiday entitlement.

Translated into numbers, that means that approximately 2.2 million workers are not getting the minimum leave to which they are entitled; and about 1.2 million of them do not get any paid leave at all. In percentage terms, that amounts to about 7.2 per cent of male workers and 9.2 per cent of female workers.

In terms of sectors, the worst affected is agriculture, with 14.9 per cent of workers missing out on holiday, followed by mining and quarrying at 14.7 per cent. Accommodation and food is the third highest affected sector at 13.9 per cent.

One of the main reasons that people do not get the holiday they are legally owed is because their workloads are so heavy that they have no time to take it. Sometimes, however, employers deliberately deny holiday requests until people have run out of time to take it, while others are simply not aware of the law.

The TUC says that minimum holiday entitlements are a vital part of reducing overwork, thereby reducing the risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes, and diabetes, which also impacts on co-workers, friends, and relatives.

It therefore wants HMRC to be granted new powers to clamp down on employers who deny staff their statutory holiday entitlement. This would include the power to ensure that workers are fully compensated for missed holidays.

Although the government recently consulted on enforcing holiday entitlements, it has yet to announce the outcome of that consultation. The TUC says ministers must guarantee all UK workers can take the holidays that they are entitled to. 

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (amended 2009), UK workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid leave. This means that they are entitled to 28 days for a typical five-day week, with pro-rata entitlement for those who work less than that. The minimum entitlement includes public holidays, although there is no legal right to have a public holiday off from work. Individuals might be entitled to additional leave under the terms of their employment contracts.

Gerard Airey of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “It is vital that workers take the holiday that they are given by law to ensure that they have time away from work for rest and relaxation. This is also vital to ensure health and safety at work. It is a problem that workers think they can’t take holiday due to their workloads and if that is the case then workers should raise their workload issues with their employer.

“Employers that don’t permit holidays to be taken are different. I echo the TUC’s suggestion that HMRC should clamp down on employers who deny staff their holiday entitlement. The TUC suggest that there should be compensation for missed holidays. I believe that this should go further and HMRC should have the power to ensure a worker is able to take the missed holiday at a later period in time within 18 months of the leave year it accrued expiring, as well as financially compensating a worker for not being allowed to take the leave in the year it accrued. This would enable a worker to take the leave they have earned and also give an effective sanction to an employer refusing to grant holiday so that this may deter this type of behavior in the future.”

Visit the TUC website to read the report in full.