South Africans are taking fewer leave days – and can’t switch off from work

Taking a vacation is a way to get away for a few days from the fast-paced modern world.

However, a new Ipsos poll shows that some countries are much better at using their allotted leave days than others, while fewer people are choosing to completely disconnect from work emails while away.

The poll is based on an international survey of 19,243 adults aged 16-64 across the world.

As with other Ipsos surveys, the South African respondents are typically more urban, educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens.

According to the Department of Labour and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, South African workers must get annual leave of at least –

  • 21 consecutive days, or
  • 1 day for every 17 days worked, or
  • 1 hour for every 17 hours worked.

Both the employer and worker should agree to the timing of leave.  If they cannot agree, the employer makes the final decision.

In addition, leave must be granted not later than 6 months after the end of the annual leave cycle (12 month periods from date of employment).


Time away from home

The majority (61%) of citizens across 27 countries surveyed agree that they have, or will spend at least one week away from home on vacation.

However, there are some significant differences on a country by country level.

Compared to last year, Turkey (74%, +9 pts.), China (62%, +8 pts.) and Sweden (72%, + 6pts.) have shown the largest increase among respondents who agree that they have or will spend at least a week away from home.

The number of respondents who agree with this statement has decreased most significantly in South Africa (57%, -12 pts.), Canada (56%, -7 pts.), France (59%, -7 pts.) and Spain (60%, -5 pts.).


Use them or lose them

Nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents agree that they will use up all vacation days that they are given.

While the global number holds steady compared to last year, the most significant increase in a number of respondents who agree with this statement is found in Australia (53%, + 7pts.), France (66%, + 5 pts.), India (72%, + 5 pts.) and Saudi Arabia (81%, + 5 pts.).

The most notable declines compared to last year are in Spain (71%, – 9 pts.), Belgium (78%, – 7 pts.), Hungary (69%, – 7 pts.) and South Korea (54%, – 6 pts.).


Put the phone away

Nearly half (47%) of respondents agree they never check work messages/emails while on vacation – meaning the global average inched up one point since 2017.

However, while the majority of countries see the number of people who chose to unplug on vacation increase compared to last year, most notably in China (44%,+ 7 pts.), Sweden (58%, + 7 pts.), and Peru (49%, + 6 pts.), the number of respondents who do not check their messages on vacation has declined in Poland (50%, – 7 pts.), Hungary (47%, – 6 pts.), Belgium (47%, – 7 pts.), South Africa (35%, – 5 pts.) and the United States (48%, – 4 pts.).


Read: 18 real interview questions that are fun to answer

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South Africans are taking fewer leave days – and can’t switch off from work