Between public holidays, annual leave, and even the occasional ‘sickie’, Australians love a good day off. And most of us would probably appreciate even more time off, if it was on offer. Nevertheless, Australia’s annual leave entitlements are among the best in the world. Permanent full-time Australian employees are entitled to 4 weeks of paid annual leave, placing us second only to countries such as France, Sweden, and Austria, who give employees 5 weeks of paid annual leave.1

However, the question remains, is 4 weeks of paid leave enough? While most people would probably like more leave, do we really need more? Well, according to a new survey by Budget Direct Travel Insurance, the answer is yes. The majority of surveyed Australians thought 4 weeks of paid leave was insufficient to take all of their intended trips or time off in a year, with a further 40% saying they were unable to switch off from work while on a personal holiday. The survey used a sample size of 1,000 people weighted to be representative of Australian adults aged 18+.

Do you think 4 weeks of paid leave in Australia is sufficient to take all intended trips or time off for the year?

A massive 57.8% of surveyed employees thought 4 weeks of paid leave was insufficient to take all of their intended trips or time off in a year. Notably, women were much more likely than men to think that 4 weeks of paid leave was insufficient. Only 36.5% of surveyed women thought 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient, compared to 48% of men.

One possible explanation for this is that women do the majority of unpaid domestic work in Australia, in addition to their paid full-time or part-time work. A 2018 study found that women spend almost twice as much time as men performing unpaid domestic work each day.2 Given this, the average surveyed Australian woman has less free time for personal or leisure activities, and is therefore more likely to regard 4 weeks of paid leave as insufficient.

Interestingly, these results also suggest that the older you are, the more likely you are to think that 4 weeks of paid leave is sufficient. Only 36.1% of surveyed 18-24 year olds thought 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient to take all of their intended trips or time off in a year. Obviously, most people love to travel. However, between end of school celebrations, gap years, and studying abroad, 18-24 year olds are often the age group most associated with ‘wanderlust’, which may explain this low percentage.

The percentage of respondents who thought 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient increased in every other age group, peaking at 46.2% for surveyed 45-54 year olds. Although these percentages increased with age, there was still no age group in which the majority of respondents agreed that 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient.

Likewise, there was no state or territory in which more than half of respondents thought 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient to take all of their intended trips or time off for the year. 48.6% of surveyed South Australians felt 4 weeks was sufficient - the highest ‘yes’ response. Conversely, just 16.7% of those surveyed in the ACT thought 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient. In most other states and territories, this figure hovered around 40%.

There was little difference between the responses of full-time and part-time employees. In fact, surveyed full-time employees were marginally more likely than part time employees to think 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient, 42.4% vs 41.8%. Just as noteworthy is the quality of paid leave that surveyed Australians are taking, with almost 40% saying they were unable to completely switch off from work while on a personal holiday.

Are you able to completely switch off from work when you’re on personal holidays?

Given 39.4% of surveyed Australians were unable to completely switch off from work while on a personal holiday, it’s easy to understand why the majority also thought 4 weeks of paid leave was insufficient. Women were only slightly less likely than surveyed men to be able to switch off from work while on holiday, 59.9% vs 61.3%.

Further, 25-34 year olds were the surveyed age group least likely to be able to switch off from work while on a personal holiday, with just 52.6%. On the other hand, two thirds (66%) of surveyed 45-54 year olds were able to switch off from work while on holiday - the highest percentage of any age group. 45-54 year olds were also the age group most likely to say that 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient. Evidently, completely switching off from work is one of the keys to a relaxing holiday, thereby increasing one’s likelihood of thinking 4 weeks of paid leave is sufficient. In other words, quality is just as important as quantity when it comes to taking time off. Elsewhere, approximately 60% of surveyed 18-24 year olds and 35-44 year olds were able to fully switch off while on holiday.

Location-wise, Queensland and Tasmania led the way, with 67.3% and 66.7% of respective respondents saying they were able to switch off from work while on personal holidays. Surveyed employees in the ACT were the least likely to be able to completely switch off while on holiday, with only 55%. Again, this correlates with surveyed employees in the ACT being by far the least likely to think 4 weeks of paid leave was sufficient. This figure was around 60% in most other states and territories.

As expected, part-time employees were slightly more likely to be able to switch off from work while on holiday than full-time employees, with 63.2% compared to 59.4% of surveyed full-time employees.

Even so, while a majority of surveyed Australian employees say they can completely switch off from work while on holiday, between 30% and 45% are unable to switch off in any given demographic. Therefore, a huge portion (39.4%) of surveyed Australian employees are unable to completely switch off from work while on personal holidays. This may indicate that they have too much work to do to fully switch off, are struggling to achieve an appropriate work life balance, or it may be a simple case of different personality types working in different ways.

Whether you’re content with the amount of holiday time you receive or you’re constantly dreaming of a longer break, it’s clear that most surveyed Australians are dissatisfied with 4 weeks of paid annual leave. This may be because a large portion are also unable to switch off from work while on holiday. As such, in a constantly evolving job market, finding ways to fully switch off from work and maximise your holiday time is becoming more crucial than ever.

Disclaimer

This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in October 2018. All figures are from this research unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000 weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+)

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