WITH the year-end holiday season approaching, many people would be busy planning for their annual vacations.
The need to recharge is a key reason for many planning a holiday but for quite a number of people, the requirement by companies for employees to clear their annual leave is another reason.
But it's surprising that a large number of Malaysian professionals do not want to take their contracted annual leave or and take a well-deserved holiday.
According to a recent survey of 260 professionals conducted by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, 65% of Malaysian professionals do not take all their holiday allowance.
The relatively low figure of people wanting to take a break and seek that work-life balance has become such an important issue surrounding working professionals in recent years.
Robert Walters Malaysia country manager Sally Raj says: “Most employees who have the option to encash their annual leave would rather have cash on hand than to take all their annual holidays. However, not many companies provide that flexi-benefit.”
She says “work still comes first for many Malaysians” but having said that, there is a difference between the baby boomers and Gen-Y employees.
“Younger employees would be more willing to take leave to travel on a regular or ad-hoc basis versus the baby boomers who tend to plan leave in advance with fewer trips in a year.”
The survey also shows that 35% of the respondents took between 50% and 75% while 31% took between zero and 25% of their holiday allowance.
Globally, the countries with the highest percentage of professionals taking all their holiday allowance are Thailand (57%), Germany (56%), Ireland (56%), New Zealand (54%) and the United Kingdom (54%).
Locally, the statutory annual leave is at least eight days per year. However, most employers are generally generous in giving more leave days to employees.
A human resources recruiter, Joycelyn Ang, says employees are not always making full use of their staff benefits including paid and sick leave.
Some actually prefer to cash-in their paid annual leave when they cannot clear their leave towards the year-end.
She says many people are so busy or are so concerned at the thought of being found to be dispensable that the idea of taking time away from the office has led to some workers refusing to take leave.
Ang points out that many self-employed people regularly work longer hours, evenings and weekends to try to keep their business afloat.
“Some companies make sure its employees do not carry forward any leave and if they do not utilise all their paid leave, they will be burnt' automatically.
“Hence, some employees prefer to have the option to cash in their leave.
“Unfortunately, not all companies offer the cash-in options, resulting in the employees scrambling to clear their leave,” she said.
Ang also points out that Gen-Y employees look for a work-life balance environment and at the same time, the baby boomers are retiring and many Gen-X workers are opting to cut down on long hours.
“Many of our clients (employers) told us that employees today want the time to travel and a better work-life balance.”
On the other hand, she says some employers encourage employees not to take the holiday. While forcing someone to not take up their leave entitlement goes against the law, some employees will try to stay in their bosses' good books and comply with such requests.
“Sometimes pressure is ingrained into the working culture, whereby everyone feels guilty for taking a holiday,” Ang says, adding that some employees are just pure workaholics.
Angel Lim, 27, from Petaling Jaya will at times rather turn up to work than take a holiday. “What's the point of applying for leave when it is not approved. I'll rather cash in my leave if my company allows me to do so. Sometimes, I feel bored when I am on leave so I'd rather go to work.
“We are given some level of responsibility here and with no immediate stand in available, sometimes we are forced to work to keep operations running. “
She says fortunately her company allows its employees to carry some of their leave over into the next year.
Sharif Adi says he will check the cash-in package to see if it's attractive.
“If it's worth it to cash in our annual leave, then why not? It's beneficial for those who would like some extra money. Otherwise just take the leave entitlement to recharge yourself,” he advises.
Account executive Jenny Lim says she will apply for leave if she has holiday plans.
“If I have a holiday plan, then of course I will use the entitlement, or else I will convert it to cash. I will utilise all my annual leave if I am not allowed to convert it to cash,” she says. Her company has yet to allow cash-in for unutilised annual leave.