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It’s there for the taking, but Australian workers are hoarding annual leave. Taking annual leave has benefits for both employers and employees.
In Australia, annual leave forms part of the National Employment Standards that apply to all employees covered by the national workplace relations system, regardless of any award, agreement or contract.1
Under the Australian Government’s FairWork annual leave guidelines, an employee (other than a casual employee) accumulates four weeks of paid annual leave for each year of service with their employer.
One of the main indicators for casual employment is whether an employee is entitled to paid leave, such as paid sick leave or paid annual leave. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics,2 25% of Australian employees were not entitled to paid leave (2.6 million) in August 2018. Of those who worked part-time in their main job, 53% were not entitled to paid leave (1.8 million).
Australia’s paid workforce had more than 133 million days’ worth of annual leave accrued between them in 2016, Roy Morgan Research found.3
The research found more than a third of Australia’s 8.5 million paid workers were sitting on more than four weeks’ worth of annual leave accrued, while 3.0% of workers (or 257,000 people) had 10 or more weeks accrued. A further 17.0% of workers didn’t actually know how much annual leave they had accrued.
Workplace mental health agency Heads Up4 says taking a break can help on an individual and organisational level.
By taking annual leave, workers can reduce stress and increase happiness, which leads to increased productivity, and reduced staff turnover and reduced absenteeism including sick leave.
New research shows sick leave has significantly increased in one in three Australian businesses in 2019,5 with larger organisation reporting the highest growth in sick leave.
The same research, by the Australian Payroll Association which surveyed more than 600 payroll managers, showed 72% of the surveyed organisations reported that some employees had not taken annual leave since Christmas 2017.
On an individual level, annual leave may help by:
For employers, workers taking annual leave may help by:
1. FairWork Ombudsman, Annual leave, accessed 3 November 2019 at fairwork.gov.au
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 29 November 2018, Characteristics of Employment Australia, August 2018, accessed 3 November 2019 at abs.gov.au
3. Roy Morgan, 20 September 2016, Holidays waiting to happen: Australian workers, 134 million days of annual leave, and travel plans, at roymorgan.com
4. Heads up, 28 November 2018, How encouraging employees to take annual leave can benefit your workplace, at headsup.org.au
5. Media Release, 4 September 2019, Are we burning out? New research reveals Aussie workers are taking more sick leave, Australian Payroll Association at dailybulletin.com.au
6. World Health Organisation, 28 May 2019, Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases, at who.int
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