June 3 2014.

The law requires employers to give staff at least 5.6 weeks of paid holiday a year, but a poll of more than 2,000 UK adults has revealed that the average UK employee only uses three quarters (77 per cent) of their annual leave each year.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of workplace review website Glassdoor also found that only half of workers use up all of their holiday entitlement, while more than two-fifths admit to working while they are on leave.

Younger employees, aged 16-24, were least likely to use all their annual leave with just 12 per cent agreeing that they use their full holiday allowance.

Employees from London were most likely to take work with them on their vacation with 51 per cent admitting to doing tasks during their break. Almost a fifth of workers said that they found it difficult not to think about work while they were off. This failure to switch off on holiday was highest among employees in London (27 per cent), while a quarter of 25-34 years olds also reported that it was difficult not to think about work while on leave compared to employees in other age groups.

The research suggested that co-workers do not make it easy for their team mates to disengage from work with 18 per cent of respondents reporting that a colleague has contacted them about a work-related matter while they were away. And 13 per cent said that their boss contacted them about work during a break.

However, many people (11 per cent) feel they have to work on holiday for fear of falling behind and facing a bigger workload upon their return, this rises to 17 per cent for employees in the Southeast. One in 10 staff said they worked while away from the office because they wanted a pay rise. Nine per cent said they felt that no one else at their company could do their work, and eight per cent of employees said they did it because they felt 'completely dedicated' to their company.

Joe Wiggins, senior jobs community manager at Glassdoor UK, said: “It’s clear the phrase annual leave among employers and employees doesn’t mean what it did in the past. Before technology allowed us to be connected 24/7, we were more likely to have actually ‘left’ our work for a few weeks a year, but now, it appears taking a full holiday allowance is a luxury. Our research shows that many employees do some work while they are supposed to be on leave because they have a difficult time switching off or because their colleagues or boss contact them. People fear falling behind with their work or worry that no-one else can do their job while they are absent.

“While there is always work to be done, employees should be conscious of using time off they’ve earned to recharge. In turn, employers should consider being more clear to everyone about what it means to be on holiday, actually let others be on leave, and go beyond just encouraging employees to use time off. Some real rest and relaxation will help employees return to work energised, ready to contribute and make them less susceptible to ‘burn out.’”