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Charities urged to support staff wellbeing as annual leave days decline

04 Sep 2023 News

Charities have been encouraged to focus on their employees’ wellbeing, after a reported reduction in annual leave taken by sector workers.

According to Access PeopleHR’s report, the average number of annual leave days taken by charity workers has dropped by 4% in the last two years from an average of 43.2 to 41.5 days per year.

This is despite the average leave allowance in the sector rising by 11% from 37.2 to 41.4 days, including bank holidays, the report says.

By comparison, the average leave entitlement offered to staff across all sectors is now 34 days a year, including bank holidays, which is up by five days annually since 2020.

CFG: Recruitment challenges putting pressure on staff

Laura Millar, head of HR at Charity Finance Group (CFG), said: “We’ve seen an enormous shift in the way we’re all working in the charity sector in the past three years, and we’re also seeing the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.”

She said demand for services has risen dramatically and at the same time many charitable organisations are seeing their income drop, with many having to do much more with a lot less and this “inevitably impacts” those who work for these organisations.
“Our members are telling us that recruiting for staff and volunteer roles is one of their main challenges. This puts additional pressure on charity staff and so it’s not entirely surprising to see that annual leave is not being taken in some circumstances,” she said.
"There is another dimension to this – new, more flexible ways of working, such as remote and hybrid working, plus the use of different types of leave, may mean that annual leave is not the automatic go-to for time off to attend appointments, care for others and so on.
“Whatever the reasons for annual leave not being taken, it’s vital that charities focus on the wellbeing of their staff. The charity sector has made great strides in this area, with the introduction of wellbeing weeks and other measures and initiatives, but we must get the basics right.”
She said it is for line managers and HR teams to ensure their teams are taking the leave they are entitled to, monitoring annual leave untaken at various points in the year, and “encouraging individuals to create space to do that in a productive way that ensures the leave isn’t lost”.

‘Hundreds of reasons’ why staff not taking leave

Charles Butterworth, managing director at Access PeopleHR, said: “Whether it’s financial worries, busy work schedules or simply not having enough booked in your calendar to justify annual leave, there’s hundreds of complex reasons why some staff in the charity sector may not be utilising all of their annual leave.

“The fact that holiday entitlement has grown so much in recent years is promising, however it will become pointless if they’re seen as job perks - but people are too busy to take them.

“Companies need to take action to identify the reasons for the lack of holiday requests, and ensure that they implement ways of working that rectify this.”

Access PeopleHR looked at the absence leave data taken from 122,000 employees at 3,175 companies, in 18 sectors. It took data for the full years of 2020, 2021 and 2022 to understand the correlation between each year.

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