Taking a break is good for freelancers’ work and life

Extending Shared Parental Leave key plank of business case for more holidays

Annual Leave


The business case for extending Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to freelancers has been bolstered by new findings.

IPSE, the body that represents the interests of self-employed workers, has published a wish list of steps that would make it easier for freelancers to take breaks from work. And they’ve backed up their demands with research that shows taking time away from work improves performance.

Almost two-thirds of freelancers believe taking holiday improves their work performance in some way. Asked what advantages came with taking more time off, 63 per cent said it improved aspects of their work including productivity, energy, creativity and confidence in their work.

Despite the many advantages, the average freelancer takes just 24 days of annual leave – four days less than the statutory minimum for employees. However overall it’s a more mixed picture with a third taking 25 days off or more and one in seven (13%) take 40 days off or more. At the bottom end of the scale, one in ten took no days off last year.

When they do take leave, freelancers are also feeling the strain of ‘always-on’ culture, with four out of five (78%) admitting to working while on holiday. Over half (58%) said they reply to work emails while away and more than a third (37%) said they take work calls while away. 28 per cent even work remotely while on holiday.

Improved relationships

IPSE expressed concern about the figures because as well as work benefits, taking time off also seems to help freelancers’ wellbeing. Nearly two-thirds (59%) said it improved their work-life balance, and nearly half reported improved relationships.

Chloé Jepps, IPSE’s Head of Research, said: “What’s clear from this research is that there is a real business case for freelancers taking more holiday. Two-thirds of freelancers say taking time away from their work actually improves it. It’s a sharp rebuttal to the idea that never stopping and being ‘always on’ is more productive.

“Freelancers must be encouraged to take more time off not only for their businesses’ sake, but also for the sake of their wellbeing and personal lives. Our research clearly shows that taking more leave helps freelancers combat stress and anxiety – and build up their personal relationships.

“Self-employment is a vital part of the economy and the labour market. Not only does it give people the flexibility to fit their work around their lives; it also contributes enough to the economy every year to fund the NHS twice over. To keep this crucial sector firing on all cylinders, it’s essential that government and business work together to support freelancers to take the leave they need.”

The IPSE manifesto for more time off involves five recommendations. These include extending SPL and parental pay to the self employed so freelancers can take time off when they have kids; better access to savings or private insurance to cover sick days; and raising awareness of the benefits of taking a break.

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