Why Are UK Workers Taking Time off Work?

At some point in our lives, we have all experienced unexpected events that catch us off guard. Whether it’s dealing with family issues or facing medical emergencies, there are instances when we need to take unplanned time off work. It’s natural for most employers to be understanding and allow employees to take a discretionary day off for significant or emergency situations.

Striking the Balance

Employers must determine where to draw the line between supporting their employees during difficult times and maintaining the productivity and fairness of the workplace. The question arises: how far is too far when it comes to granting time off for unexpected circumstances?

Survey Insights: Employee Attendance

instantprint quizzed over 1,000 UK office workers to uncover their opinions on suitable reasons for having a day off work. 58% reported having taken discretionary time off, while 36% hadn’t, potentially due to avoidance or lack of need.

Frequency of Time Off

In the last year, 66% of respondents hadn’t taken any such time off. Notably, 35-44-year-olds were least likely to take time off, with over a third reporting none.

Honesty and Refusals

6% admitted to fabricating reasons for time off, while 93% claimed they hadn’t, though some exaggerated illness. Most (87%) reported their managers never refusing time off, but 5% had experienced such refusals.

Comfort Levels in Requesting Time Off

57% felt comfortable requesting discretionary leave, whereas 18% didn’t feel at ease, and 16% only felt comfortable with certain managers. Women were more reluctant to seek such time off.

Employer Conditions

Employers sometimes imposed conditions, like making up the hours (28%) or working from home (17%). Some were asked to use holiday or sick pay (15%), provide proof (6%), or had wages deducted (4%).

Employee Opinions on Time Off

47% viewed discretionary time off as positive, 42% believed employees should have more say, 8% favoured strict policies, and 2% viewed them as unnecessary.

Common Reasons for Time Off

Health-related issues were the most common reasons for time off, including funerals (42%), bereavement (38%), and medical appointments (36%). Beyond health, issues like house problems (16%), lack of childcare (12%), and extreme weather (10%) were also mentioned.

Suitable Reasons for Time Off: Employee Perspectives

Reasons deemed suitable for taking time off work included hospital appointments for others (57%), staying home for a child’s exclusion or sickness (57%), celebrating birthdays (22%), car MOTs (33%), and important deliveries (20%). Surprisingly, 17% believed conflicts with coworkers were reasonable grounds for absence.

Communication Preferences

When requesting discretionary time off, 45% preferred face-to-face communication, 19% would make a phone call, 16% would send an email, 7% would send a text, and 4% would use a work channel like Slack or Teams.

Impact on Job Search

52% disclosed that being denied time off would somewhat affect the likelihood of them looking for another job if their employer denied them time off, while 33% wouldn’t consider job hunting, and 10% would actively seek a new position.

In conclusion

Taking time off from work is a vital aspect of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The variety of reasons considered suitable for time off reflects the diversity of individual circumstances. Ultimately, understanding and accommodating the need for time off is not just a gesture of goodwill, but a fundamental element in fostering a motivated and contented workforce.





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