Freelancers and the self-employed need holidays too

Taking time off improves the work performance of freelancers, a new study from IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) claims. The research suggests that 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 percent said it improved aspects of their work including productivity, energy, creativity and confidence in their work.

Despite the many advantages, when it comes to how much holiday freelancers are taking, it is a very mixed picture. The average freelancer takes 24 days of annual leave – four days fewer than the statutory minimum for employees. However, a third (33%) take 25 days off or more, while 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.

According to IPSE, these figures are concerning because as well as work benefits, taking time off also seems to help freelancers’ wellbeing. Nearly two-thirds (59%) also said it improved their work-life balance, while almost half (44%) said it improved their relationships.

To help more freelancers take more time off and improve their wellbeing and their business performance, IPSE developed a range of recommendations for government and industry:

1. Introduce fair Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and parental pay for the self-employed, so freelancers can take the leave they need when they have children.

2. Improve access to savings or private insurance to cover for sick days.

3. Make training for the self-employed easier to access, so freelancers feel more able to take time off for this.

4. End late payment to stop freelancers having to chase clients during their leave.

5. Raise awareness of the importance of freelancers taking time off.

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.”