Festive cheer: SMEs to reward employees with 120 million extra days off

Small and medium-sized businesses are set to reward their employees with 120 million extra days off as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

More than half a million UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are spreading festive cheer among their workforces by giving the gift of time, according to the latest quarterly SME barometer from Barclays. One in ten SMEs said they would be gifting each employee 2.5 extra days leave, on average, meaning that workers across the country will receive 120,345,602 days off cumulatively, the bank said.

People working in the hospitality and leisure, and manufacturing sectors will get even more time off, with 3.5 days and three days of additional holidays, respectively. The Barclays research found that 41 per cent of SME employers believe staff activities leading up to the festive season contribute to employee retention. Similarly, nearly a third (30 per cent) of Scottish employees say they are less likely to look for another job if their employer organises activities to reward staff over the festive period.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Of employers who are seeing an increase in demand for benefits from new employees, more annual leave is one of the top three benefits being requested by existing employees. In addition to providing time off, about two fifths (44 per cent) of SMEs will be hosting end-of-year parties, spending an average of £56 per head on festivities, while 41 per cent will be closing offices between Christmas and New Year and 25 per cent will be awarding Christmas bonuses.

According to the latest barometer, more than half (55 per cent) of UK SMEs reported their total revenue grew – with turnover up around 9.1 per cent year-on-year, on average. Some 51 per cent of UK SMEs reported turnover growth in the third quarter of 2022 compared with the second quarter, consistent with data from Barclaycard Payments, which showed a modest increase of 5.2 per cent in the value and 4.4 per cent in the volume of payments made to Scottish SMEs between July and September this year.

Festive cheer and optimism are, however, dampened by the cost-of-living crunch as nearly half (47 per cent) of UK businesses are worried about their prospects heading into the new year. Some 68 per cent of firms are concerned about the negative impact that rising energy bills will have on their business, with 26 per cent feeling very concerned. Larger businesses are feeling the pinch too, with nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) predicting a decrease in consumer spending and 41 per cent worrying about their businesses prospects as they approach 2023.

Colin O’Flaherty, head of SME at Barclaycard Payments, said: “The upcoming festive period will be our first since the pandemic without restrictions, with employers and employees looking to make the most of it. While it’s been yet another challenging year for businesses, many SMEs are looking to inject some festive cheer by rewarding their employees, as business owners are aware of the positive impact that employee morale can have on staff retention. Our research shows that although owners are very aware of the difficulties to come, they remain resilient in the face of rising costs.”

Many employees will be able to spend a couple more days jetting off to the sun thanks to additional holiday allowances.