One in three employees may still request leave on the day itself
June 13, 2023
One in three European employees may still request leave on the day itself. Eight in ten employees (79%) may already check and request their leave days digitally. This is great news, as flexibility in terms of leave arrangements and a healthy work-life balance are important for European employees. More than three quarters (78%) consider leave and flexible working hours to be important benefits in their salary package. What is also striking is that employees and employers have roughly the same opinion about the possibility of taking an unlimited number of leave days. This is revealed in SD Worx’s new study among 4,833 employers and 16,011 employees in 16 European countries.
Work-life balance priority for European employees
Flexible leave arrangements are very important to employees. They also, therefore, expect a high degree of flexibility from their employers. And they usually also have this flexibility. For example, one in three employees (32%) request their leave on the day itself. More than half of those surveyed (55%) may request their leave a week or less in advance. One in ten employees may request leave one to two weeks in advance. One in three have to submit their request two weeks to one month in advance. In Denmark (54%), the United Kingdom (38%) and Finland (37%) in particular, employees may request their leave at the last minute.
A flexible work-life balance is very important to employees. When asked what benefits in their salary package they consider most important, three quarters of those surveyed (78%) immediately mentioned their leave and other benefits related to working time. Croatia (92%), Finland (88%) and Ireland (87%) score the highest percentages in that respect.
Eight in ten European employees apply for leave digitally
Leave request flexibility has an impact on an organisation's distribution of work, planning and administration. Companies are, therefore, digitalising their processes in order to achieve this flexibility. There is a lot of digitalisation everywhere, regardless of the size of the company.
Overall, an overwhelming majority of employees (79%) may already check and request their leave days digitally. 40% can only do this on a desktop or laptop, while 18% can only do this on a smartphone or tablet. A further 21% can arrange and track their leave days from a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. There has been a lot of digital progress particularly in the Netherlands (90.5%), Norway (88%) and Sweden (87%).
"A good planning overview is crucial to guarantee a flexible leave system," Chief People Officer at SD Worx Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens explains. "Digitalisation helps to facilitate quick and flexible leave days and keep the work planning and payroll administration under control. This allows companies to be more flexible in an organisational sense."
Half of employees are not explicitly positive about the concept of unlimited leave days
Even though demand for a flexible leave system is high, not everyone is convinced of the concept of unlimited leave days. Just under half of employees (48%) show an interest in this, while a striking 40% feel rather neutral about the idea. Lastly, just under 12% are not interested in such a system at all. Croatian (66%), Polish (60%) and Spanish (56%) employees are most positive about this concept. English (51%), Danish (49%) and Swedish (46%) employees remain rather indifferent.
If employees were to receive an unlimited number of leave days, most would only adjust their leave days somewhat. Barely a quarter (23%) would take a lot more leave days than they do today. 38% would take only a little more leave. One in three employees (34%) would take the same number of leave days. And 7% would take even less leave.
One striking observation is that employers are not necessarily opposed to the idea of unlimited leave days. 37% of employers are broadly neutral, an equal number is positive and more than a quarter (27%) think it is a bad idea. Even though employees tend to be more positive about the concept than employers, the figures show that sentiments are fairly moderate on both sides.
The fact that the demand for leave flexibility is on many company's radar is also reflected in what happens to leave days that have not been taken. A majority of companies (60%) allow employees to transfer leave days they have not taken. Leave days are transferred most in Norwegian (71%), Swiss (68%) and German (67%) organisations. Three in ten organisations (28%) choose to pay out the leave days. In 12% of cases, the days are lost if they are not taken.
"So we cannot exactly say that everyone wishes to have endless holidays. Most employees are fairly down-to-earth about it", concludes Bruce Fecheyr-Lippens at SD Worx. "Both employees and employers tend to take a rather moderate view of unlimited holiday time. Certainly, leisure time and an optimal work-life balance are very important, but employees do consider this balance very responsibly. One of the reasons for this may be psychological. Working is a meaningful activity for people. It offers opportunities to develop and learn, and it brings people together. Holidays are there to allow people to recharge their batteries. Striking a balance between work and leisure offers peace of mind."