How do bank holidays affect you and your business?
With the recent ‘wedding fever’ and upcoming presidential visit it seems the US is in the news even more than usual and the inevitable culture comparisons these events have brought on set me thinking that, from an employment and holiday perspective at least, us Brits have things a lot better than our US friends. As we prepare to embark upon the second bank holiday of the month, a stark comparison can be drawn between is how lucky us Brits are when it comes to not only bank holidays, but with regards to our statutory annual leave entitlements.
In the UK, as with all of Europe, full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days statutory paid leave, although many choose to offer more than this, we are also entitled to a further 8 paid bank holidays per year. In the US on the other hand, workers are not actually entitled to any paid annual leave so 10 days is regarded as generous. When you look at it from this perspective as a nation we’re lucky with regards to our entitlements in comparison to other countries, indeed I’ve had candidates who’ve lived and worked in other countries that have returned to the UK with a whole new appreciation of how good we have it here. Holiday days are what I see as an essential perk of any job, vital for having a good work life balance, especially the “bonus” bank holidays. As great as they are though they can wreak havoc in the office from an organisational and work load management point of view.
Almost all of the bank holidays in the UK, apart from Christmas and New Year, occur within a six month period, two if which are in May. May usually marks the start of the period where the amount of annual leave taken in the office starts to increase. As the weather gets warmer and with two bank holiday weekends and half term taking place, it is a bit of an unsettled month for employees, and this can present a range of issues for businesses.
As there are less physical days in the office in May, there is a lot of pressure for employees to complete five days’ work in just four so this can have a negative effect on the atmosphere in the office. Three day weekends are great but trying to get back into the ‘work’ mindset after an unusually long weekend of sunshine and BBQ’s can be a challenge, particularly when half of the office have taken the whole week off. It’s very similar to the period in between Christmas and New Year, when it feels like everyone else is not working.
I am always conscious of the workloads of my team around bank holidays because there’s a lot of pressure and expectations from clients and candidates, as everyone wants to get everything tied up before a long weekend. It is an easy time to get trapped in the mindset of working late and missing lunch breaks just to get everything done and this can have a detrimental effect on employees’ wellbeing and productivity. It is important for employers to support team members and try and relieve pressure wherever possible, to ensure that time pressures don’t affect the morale in the office, because this will be reflected in the service you provide as a business.
From a recruitment perspective, having less days in the office across the month can mean that businesses take longer to make hiring decisions following interviews, so potential employees can be waiting a lot longer than anticipated to hear about a role. Similarly, it could also present problems for hiring managers trying to arrange interviews because finding a time where all the relevant team members are available to hold an interview is more difficult. This can also affect notice periods and start dates. Therefore, it is more common for things to get pushed back and for the process to take longer, which can present problems for candidates, as well as those like us, who act as the intermediary between the employer and the candidate.
Although there is no doubt that bank holidays are good for employees because it gives them a break and allows you to come back relaxed and refreshed, they can also be a cause for stress. I believe that employers have an important role to play in ensuring that their team are not drowning in their workload and are able to enjoy some well-earned time off. As ever, employers need to support employees in maintaining a good work-life balance in order to get the best out of them.