The TUC has called on the UK government to introduce additional bank holidays (also known as public holidays) in England to tackle employee burnout. But while some support this idea, others are questioning whether it’s really the best approach to giving employees more free time by tackling employee burnout in England.

The pros and cons of the TUC’s plan

With stress at record highs and engagement at disturbing lows the world over in the wake of a difficult and unpredictable couple of years, tackling employee burnout is one of the most pressing concerns for businesses. The TUC’s General Secretary put forward the idea for four additional bank holidays in England. Although this has been met with a mixed response.

So, do bank holidays really get to the heart of tackling burnout? Or is there a better way to deal with mounting job stress in your company than implementing more government-mandated holidays?

The positives of tackling burnout with more holidays

Creating more bank holidays in England would certainly benefit a lot of people. As things are, Employees in England only get eight bank holidays a year, putting them behind the EU average, and even behind Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Many employees would get more time off

We could argue back and forth all day about whether English employees are taking enough time off work. But the fact is, burnout is on the increase. In fact, Indeed has found that more than half of employees are suffering from burnout in 2021, compared to 43% pre-COVID.

Managers couldn’t pressure employees to work public holidays

Presenteeism describes people showing up for work while ill. But it can also refer to people not taking their allotted paid time off. Some employees can feel obligated not to take holiday, for fear of letting down colleagues or being seen as lacking commitment. Bank holidays obligate many businesses to close their doors, ensuring that workers get a certain amount of time off.

Regular leave like bank holidays is important for tackling burnout

Burnout is on the rise for UK workers. Last year, a study of 2,000 UK office workers found that most employees need additional time off every 43 days or so to avoid burnout. When made to work long periods of time without an extended break, 70% of employees experienced significant fatigue.

It would put the UK on par with the EU average

With all the COVID madness, it’s almost possible to forget that Britain left the EU not too long ago. 42% of UK employees experiencing significant job stress. And only 11% feel engaged in their roles according to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace Report. Bringing England up to par with EU neighbors would be a nice morale boost.

The negatives of tackling burnout with more holidays

While many English workers could benefit from more bank holidays, they’re by no means a perfect solution for tackling employee burnout. While they’re great for stressed-out employees, they’re an inconvenience for some sectors.

Not all job sectors benefit from more public holidays

While bank holidays can work wonders for people in white collar office jobs, they don’t apply universally. While some customer service businesses may close or have reduced hours on bank holidays, the massive influx of people with free time makes them very lucrative for retail and hospitality, meaning that many stay open. So, as a result, one employee’s break becomes another’s busiest day of the week.

New bank holidays might cause confusion

Have you ever woken up in an icy cold panic because you’re late for work, only to be stumbling out the door still with bed-head when you realize you’re not in today? It’s easy to forget to keep track of bank holidays, and you could argue that throwing more into the mix would throw people for a loop.

Alternative ways of tackling employee burnout without extra public holidays

Doing nothing

Sometimes, doing nothing is the best plan. While it’s true that employees are stressed , burned out and disengaged, that’s in large part due to an exceptional macro-level event. With things returning to normal, perhaps it’s better for people to settle back into their regular schedules.

4-day work weeks rather than bank holidays

The concept of the 4-day work week has been steadily gaining traction over the past couple of years. The Scottish Government is following Iceland’s example, with the support of 90% of its employed population.

Company mandated paid time off rather then blanket bank holidays

Working more than 55 hours a week increases the risk of a stroke or death from heart disease. Bumble have given employees a whole week of paid time off, to a very positive reception.

Better managers will also trump more bank holidays

But finally, maybe it’s not an issue of time off at all. It could be an issue of simply managing employees more effectively. Setting manageable goals for employees makes it easier for employees to engage effectively. If better workload management can result in more reasonable task allocation per employee, job stress would be mitigated. This means that more time off might not be necessary in the first place.

Introduce regular cycles of employee feedback where staff are encouraged to share frank and honest feedback. Managers and leadership need to listen and take appropriate action. Simply asking your people a few well-designed questions at a regular cadence has been shown to reduce workplace stresses. And minimize the risk of burnout.

On paper, more days off sound like a quick fix solution towards tackling employee burnout. But perhaps we should be looking at a more lasting cultural change for managers and leaders. It may take a little more time to implement but the effects are shown to last.

Learn how a weekly employee check-in helps tackle employee burnout through better feedback practices.