By Stuart Hearn, CEO of OneTouchTeam

Striking a balance whereby employees are guaranteed enough leave to maintain a healthy work-life balance without the employer sacrificing the manpower and efficiency needed for a successful business takes planning.

In the UK, employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual holiday, including public holidays. This means 28 days statutory paid holiday per year for employees who have a five day working week. Full-time employees should be paid the same rate as their weekly pay for every week of holiday, while part-time employees should receive a week’s pay prorated accordingly.

Employers are able to offer paid holidays over the statutory minimum at their own discretion, as a way to improve employee work-life balance and increase productivity in the workplace.

According to Wolfgang Seidl, Head of the Healthcare Consulting business at Mercer, offering flexibility and a favourable work-life balance can help prevent staff burn outs, counter low workplace productivity and improve motivation. Therefore sufficient holiday entitlements are vital to maintaining a healthy working environment.

Research from Ernst & Young in 2006 found that more holiday time correlated with stronger employee performance. Their report showed that for every 10 hours of holiday time which employees had, there was an 8% improvement in their performance review score.

However, figures show that 51% of staff end up working extra hours before taking holiday leave, and one in ten workers feel guilty about their time off work. Employees may also choose to use their paid holiday time in place of unpaid sick leave, meaning they have less time off in which to recharge.

Employers have a responsibility to effectively manage employee absence to ensure that employees have a healthy work/life balance. Putting a strategy in place that allows employees to take leave without feeling guilty about being behind on work or putting other colleagues under pressure is essential. Businesses should cultivate a work culture which promotes taking time off and outlines the benefits of annual leave.

Planning ahead to ensure there will be cover for employees who are away and sharing the holiday schedule with your staff will make organising staff leave more straightforward. For smaller businesses, using HR software for planning staff leave allows staff to book holiday and can automate the holiday scheduling process to avoid clashes in absence.

Businesses of all sizes should set out guidelines for booking annual leave, including a system in which holiday time cannot roll over into the following year, a deadline date for when holiday must be booked and how far in advance holiday time must be booked. This will make the process easier to manage and will ensure staff have the time off that they both need and are entitled to.