Welcome to the annual leave game show: The Australian Fair Work Commission has recently changed various modern awards to allow for the cashing in of annual leave under specific conditions. How would you feel if this trend extends to non-award employees in the future?
At first glance, the freedom to choose annual leave time or its monetary equivalent seems like a great win for employees. Who wouldn’t love the flexibility to select whichever option suits their personal situation? Unfortunately, there’s the potential that those who need a break most won’t take it.
Australia is recognised internationally as a hardworking nation. A global survey by online travel site Expedia, as reported by Moira Geddes for news.com.au, reveals over 50% of Australians feel vacation deprived. In an interview with Geddes, George Rubensal, Managing Director of Expedia ANZ says Australians are not taking enough holidays, with 11% of us taking no vacation at all. Even though we have the right to time off, employees feel constrained by an obligation to work, with a staggering 17% of workers saying their bosses don’t allow them to take leave!
News.com.au reports that business leaders supported changes to allow for more flexible working arrangements, but unions are concerned about annual leave becoming a commodity, rather than an entitlement. Finding that you really need the respite afforded by taking annual leave when you’ve already cashed in your leave benefits puts additional pressure on employees to negotiate with their employers and compounds the problem. The same principle applies to those calls to allow low income workers to access their superannuation.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver makes the point that employers should be encouraging a work environment where employees feel secure to take the leave they have earned. It’s also important to remember that more hours worked does not necessarily lead to greater productivity.
Here are some ways the scenario could play out:
- Employees perceive that they are indispensable to their job, so they don’t take leave and risk burnout in the process
- Employers try to achieve higher output by encouraging their employees to work rather than take leave
- Employees working under financial stress take the cash, even though they really need the break
- Employers who recognise that holidays contribute to increased productivity find it difficult to convince staff to take leave
- Employees spend more time at work and less time with family and friends, which also affects relationships with colleagues and business performance
In the always online, connected digital age, taking time out to allow our minds and bodies to recharge is more critical than ever. Our annual leave provisions allow us to do that.
Would you take the money or the holiday?