The secret to making the most of your holiday this year

Hannah Sims · 20 Jan

2017 is upon us: it’s time to escape. Here’s how to use your annual leave wisely.

What is your annual leave?

In the UK full time workers are legally entitled to 5.6 paid weeks a year off, or 28 days per year. But often on top of that, as long as employers don't choose to include Bank Holidays in that 28 days (which they can do), England and Wales enjoy eight bank holidays, and Scotland and Northern Ireland have 10. No, it isn’t fair.

On average, we only use 77% of our annual leave!

Why do you even have it?

There’s a fun rumour that bank holidays were chosen by MP Sir John Lubbock, to coincide with the days when his county cricket club played their matches. For a brief time, bank holidays were known as ‘St Lubbock Days’. Whilst this rumour isn’t true, bank holidays were ‘invented’ by the Victorians to coincide with traditional festival days like May Day. As for the weekend, the first company to give employees Saturdays and Sundays off were American cotton mills in 1908. Henry Ford started shutting down his factory over Saturdays and Sundays in 1926. The weekend appeared because the Christian and Jewish Sabbath fall on consecutive days.


Why should you use it?

Why not just work through it and pocket the extra money instead? The truth is, even though your employers love you, they’d much rather you take your time off than lived in the workplace. Not only are there health benefits for you (and burnout and sick days cost the office far more than your planned allocated leave) but research shows that your engagement and productivity skyrocket after a break.

Basically, don’t go to Cancun for you: do it for your boss.


But people aren’t using it

Sadly, a lot of people simply don’t use their leave. In the UK, half of people don’t use all of it. In fact, on average, we only use 77% - that’s around 7 days that we don’t take. Netflix, Virgin and LinkedIn tell their employees to take as much time off as they like. But is this is a mixed blessing? Some people, if not forced to take time off, will never leave the office. Presenteeism is the nemesis of a good break. Some even fear that taking a day off will harm their chance of a promotion.

This year, use it

So, with that in mind, let us help you. This year, there are 8 bank holidays to play with where even the most present practitioner of presenteeism will find the office doors shut.

They look a bit like this:
Monday, January 2 - New Year’s Day substitute
Friday, April 14 - Good Friday
Monday, April 17 - Easter Monday
Monday, May 1 - May Bank Holiday
Monday, May 29 - Spring Bank Holiday
Monday, August 28 - Summer Bank Holiday
Monday, December 25 - Christmas Day
Tuesday, December 26 - Boxing Day

The best time to go away in 2017 is at Easter where you can, wait for it, take 9 days off but get 18 days of break!

How to do it?

Leave on the 14th April and don’t return until 2nd May. Between these two dates are just 9 working days, plus 3 bank holidays and 3 weekends.

Which days shall I book off?

You’ll need to take off the 9 working days between Easter and the first May Bank Holiday - 18th-21st, 24th-28th.

Eighteen days off… that’s a lot of cricket matches!

Can’t make the Easter break? Panic not!

At Christmas this year, by taking 3 days off work between Christmas and New Year you can get a 10 day break. Leave on 22nd December and return 2nd January.

No money?

As they say: ‘no money, no problem’! (at least you’re not £30 billion out of pocket!) Sign out from work for a few days and you’ll see great benefits, even if you don’t go to the Bahamas. Taking time off with family or friends will help you reset your goals and give you perspective.

When you take your time off, make sure it’s really time off. Back in 2013, 40% of people still checked their work phones at social occasions or during their down time. What’s more, people spend only 8 days of their annual leave on holiday, a third use at least a day shopping for Christmas presents and 28% take leave to catch up on household chores.

For a real break on a budget, try something new: take away your screen time and take away the familiar surroundings that you associate with housework and chores: go stay with a friend or a family member somewhere new and refreshing, move away from old habits.

You’ll find your ‘reset’ button.

Sources:, 'Holiday Entitlement,' 2016

The Telegraph, 'The secret to making the most of your annual leave in 2017,' 2016

BBC, 'The politics of bank holidays,' 2011

Glassdoor,'UK Employees Losing A Quarter of Their Annual Leave; Glassdoor UK Annual Leave Survey,' 2014

The Telegraph, 'Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want – and it works,' 2010

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