No rest for the self-employed as holidays are ditched


Date: 15 September 2020

A female freelancer nurses a headache as she works

Nearly three-quarters of business owners say they will take no more than five days holiday next year even though 89% agree that time off is important for mental health.

Research conducted by small business lender iwoca has found that over a third (37%) of small business owners plan to take no time off at all in the next year; and sole traders are under the most pressure to keep working at the moment, as 44% of the UK's 4.5 million self-employed workers say they won't be taking time off over the next 12 months.

In normal times, 59% of business owners take five days' holiday a year on average, while 10% take none at all. Just 4% of business owners normally take the usual 25-28 days off that many UK employees are allocated.

While many businesses have adapted their operations as a result of working from home, 41% of owners say they wouldn't be able to run their business if they had to quarantine for 14 days after returning from a holiday abroad.

Despite these findings, the vast majority of business owners (89%) agree that time off is important for mental health.

Niamh Keys, head of people at iwoca, said: "Many small business owners are quite rightly channelling all their energy into ensuring the future of their business. But this could be taking its toll on their own wellbeing."

Meanwhile, a new study by freelancer body IPSE has found that one in four self-employed workers is struggling with their mental health because of the pandemic.

The number of self-employed people saying they have "poor" or "very poor" mental health has increased from 6% to 26%, according to its findings.

The number that say they have "good" or "excellent" mental health has also dropped significantly since the beginning of the pandemic - from 68% to 39%. This is most severe among women (a drop of 54%) and young freelancers aged 16-34 (a drop of 49%).

A third of freelancers (32%) say they are highly stressed - half (48%) say they feel depressed or anxious because of stress and the same proportion say they feel less productive. Just over a fifth (22%) said they have lost clients because of job-related stress.

Chloé Jepps, IPSE head of research, said: "Lockdown and the pandemic have clearly shaken the mental health of the freelancing sector … One of the most practical things government can do is help stave off the financial worries of freelancers and the self-employed, since this sector has been hit harder than most by lockdown and the pandemic. The government should make sure there is no cliff-edge to its support schemes and that any further support is open to all the self-employed, not just a proportion."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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