Fewer holidays for small business owners and their staff

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Date: 3 August 2021

 Two parents on a beach with their children

Brits working in small firms have taken less time off than usual during the pandemic; and those that are taking a break are staying close to home.

A study by small business lender iwoca has discovered that 16% of small business owners and 24% of sole traders say they will not take any holiday at all this year despite travel restrictions easing. The poll of business owners has also found that 68% of business owners haven't taken any time off since the beginning of the pandemic.

Those that are now taking time off are planning to stay close to home, it seems. Over half (58%) of business owners plan to take a staycation this summer - with 50% saying they are put off from taking a holiday abroad due to the cost of COVID-19 tests and 66% worried about quarantine rules.

Meanwhile, research by YouGov for Acas has found that four in ten British employees (39%) have taken less paid time off work during the pandemic compared to before it started. Interestingly, the poll found that staff in small firms were less likely to have taken their holiday allocation:

  • 44% of employees at small to medium-sized businesses were less likely to have taken paid time off;
  • 35% of employees in large businesses were less likely to have taken paid time off.

In 2020, the government introduced a law allowing employees to carry over up to four weeks' statutory paid holiday into their next two holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday that staff do not take due to COVID-19.

"Our poll findings are unsurprising as many workers may have taken advantage of a new law introduced last year, which allows them to carry over most of their paid time off into this year," said Susan Clews, Acas chief executive. "Acas advice is for employees to agree any holiday plans with their managers and keep them updated on any new COVID developments that could impact work such as travel quarantine or being asked to self-isolate."

The iwoca research shows that small business owners agree that taking holiday is important for their mental health. Almost three-quarters (73%) said that taking a holiday was important - with 57% agreeing strongly.

"After the 18 months we've had, we all need some time off, employees and business owners alike," said Seema Desai, chief operating officer of iwoca. "Many small businesses across the country have gone through a huge amount of stress and hardship this year. Finding some time to take a break and recharge can help small business owners come back revitalised and ready to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the economy opening up."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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