Extended Summer Holiday, Soaring Sickness and National Staffing Shortages Add Strain to UK Businesses

  • The UK retail sector witnesses a 164% increase in sickness days taken in 2021 compared to 2019
  • With an estimated 50% more holiday to take in 2021 than 2020, the average UK employee still has 17 days of leave to book this year

Data from global absence management provider, Edays has revealed that the UK workforce has half of its annual holiday allowance left to take with only a quarter of the year remaining.

Despite the end of the British summer holiday period, the average UK employee still has 17 days of leave to book this year. The national average entitlement for the UK workforce is 33 days in 2021, factoring in the 50% increase in holiday rollover allowed from 2020. In light of this, the UK employee is still capitalising on their 2020 holiday rollover with a 53% increase in week-long holiday bookings on pre-pandemic rates. 

With recent changes to the UK’s travel list, access to the US restored, and the relaxing of PCR testing and quarantine rules, findings show that half term bookings have increased by 200%. Organisations are therefore likely to see a sudden increase in holiday bookings, causing strained absence levels as employees try to cram in the rest of their holidays.

Sickness jump in retail

This problem is evident as we approach the busiest season for the retail sector. Edays’ data has revealed that the industry’s workforce has suffered from more sickness (an increase of 164% when compared to 2019) as well as longer periods of sickness too (an increase of 108% when compared to 2019).

The data suggests that the winter months see higher averages of sickness compared to summer months. January and February made up a third of sickness in 2021, and with seasonal coughs and colds re-entering the workforce as the UK opens back up, as well as spikes in COVID cases, it could be disastrous for the retail sector. 

With food-firms warning of panic buying this Christmas, the retail industry is likely to be stretched already trying to keep up with demand, without the added pressures of staff sickness to cope with. These factors as well as the fact the average UK employee has 17 days of holiday left to take before the end of the year highlight the potential for a winter of woes for the UK retail economy. 

“As businesses fight staff shortages and employees face a winter burnout, employers will need to have a much better understanding of their absence rates in order to effectively manage the resource constraints amplified by the extended booking period for summer holiday into September,” warns Matt Jenkins, CEO of Edays. “Our absence management technology enables businesses to access real-time insights, alerting HR leaders of absence trends before they develop into business-wide crises.”

Jenkins added: “With so much holiday left to take and the ONS announcing that vacancies are at a record high, one of the greatest challenges in the lead up to Christmas will be for business leaders to strike a healthy balance between encouraging employees to take some all important recovery time without exacerbating the nationwide resourcing crisis. We’re seeing extended holiday booking into September in the midst of resourcing problems – and this is only further compounded by the holiday backlog. The solution is to use insight-led technology to remove the strain of absence management and accurately forecast for 2022 to avoid facing the same challenges next year.”

To find out more about how Edays can transform your approach to absence, click here.