More than 60% of Britons fail to take time off - and those who do feel guilty

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The Independent Online

More than six out of ten Britons fail to take their full holiday entitlement and are owed billions of pounds by their employers as a result, according to research published today.

More than six out of ten Britons fail to take their full holiday entitlement and are owed billions of pounds by their employers as a result, according to research published today.

The average employee loses 3.6 days a year, through coercion by an employer, guilt or a heavy workload. Even the 47 per cent who take their full time off, can find their enjoyment marred because they feel guilty, the study by online recruiters totaljobs.com found.

Far more women feel bad than men. Some 55 per cent reported feeling guilty, compared with 40 per cent of males. Employers also seem to foster the feeling that holidays are a privilege rather than a right. About one-quarter of Britons are met with raised eyebrows when they tell employers about holiday dates. Nearly 60 per cent of workers said the denial of leave created a bad feeling among the workforce and was harming British industry as a consequence.

The findings contrast with the Confederation of British Industry's recent attack on workers for taking too many days off sick a year. According to the research, far from throwing "sickies", 88 per cent of employees still go to work when they are ill. Despite losing leave, nearly four out of ten workers are offered no money or any time off in compensation.

Even when they have booked time off, the study found that more than six out of ten take work on holiday or go in on their day off. The more senior the employee, the more likely they are to take their jobs home. Just over half of the respondents in non-managerial positions fail to resist the lure of work when they are off, compared with seven out of ten middle and junior managers and eight out of ten in senior positions.

However, those lower down the pecking order are far more likely to cancel a holiday because of work. Seven out of ten said they had scrapped plans for a break, compared with only half of senior managers and directors.

Although the problem of "lost leave" is nationwide, employees in some parts of the country suffer more than others. Scottish workers admit to losing an average of four days a year, closely followed by their colleagues in London and the South-east who lose 3.7 days.

Robert Perkins, publishing director of totaljobs.com, part of the Reed Elsevier group, described the results as appalling. "Many business organisations have said that staff sickness is the biggest problem, but it's clear from this survey that it's the other way round.

"Employers should recognise that leave is an integral part of a person's salary package. It directly affects staff morale and well-being, and ultimately the success of a company. It is a false economy to suggest otherwise."

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