One in six small business owners will not take any holiday this year despite travel restrictions easing

Our recent research reveals that COVID rules on travelling may be putting off small business owners from taking any holiday this year.

6 August 2021
  • One in six (16%) small business owners say they will not take any holiday this year, despite international borders reopening
  • Over half (58%) of owners are intending on taking a staycation this summer
  • 50% are put off from taking holiday abroad due to the cost of COVID-19 tests
  • Two thirds (66%) say they won’t take a holiday abroad due to quarantine rules

Following an extremely tough year for small business owners, one in six (16%) SME owners revealed that they plan to take no holiday days this year (1). This trend is even more prevalent for sole traders, a quarter (24%) of whom plan to take zero holiday days in the next 12 months. In addition to having no leave planned, the majority (68%) of business owners reported that they hadn’t taken any time off since the beginning of the pandemic.

For small business owners who plan on taking a holiday this year, over half (58%) said they will take a staycation this summer, compared with just 21% who will go overseas. Some of our findings suggested that COVID-rules on travelling are putting off small business owners from going abroad. Half (50%) of small business owners said they would be less likely to go overseas due to the costs associated with COVID-19 tests. A further two thirds (66%) said they would be less likely to go abroad for a holiday because they may be required to quarantine on return.

Read on for more findings.

As the UK reopens, taking more holiday is becoming more frequent

However, our research does suggest that, as the UK begins to reopen, small business owners are looking to take more holiday days than earlier in the pandemic. Last year, almost three quarters (73%) of small business owners said they would be taking five or fewer days of leave in the next 12 months (2), but this year, just a third (34%) reported they would take so few days. Nearly a third (30%) will take 15 or more days off in the next 12 months, up from 11% in 2020.

Small business owners overwhelmingly agree that taking holiday is important for their mental health. Almost three quarters (73%) of small business owners agreed that taking a holiday was important - with over half (57%) strongly agreeing. However, this was slightly down from last year, where 88% of respondents agreed it was vital for protecting their mental health. The slight dip in sentiment could be attributed to an uptick in optimism for small business owners as the economy reopens and the stresses of the pandemic begin to ease.

Seema Desai, Chief Operating Officer of iwoca added: “After the 18 months we’ve had, we all need some time off, employees and business owners alike.

“Many small businesses across the country have gone through a huge amount of stress and hardship this year. Finding some time to take a break and recharge can help small business owners come back revitalised and ready to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the economy opening up."

Case studies

Simon Bullmore, Co-Founder and Head of Consulting of Mission Drive: “I wasn’t able to take any time off during the pandemic. This was partly because I was prioritising my staff and their leave over my own, but also because, as a digital business, we got really busy during the pandemic helping clients to move to working virtually.

“We have all felt burnout from having to work during the pandemic. We were working longer hours, and so taking time off was just not viable.

“Moving forwards, as business owners, we need to switch off, for our own benefit and for our clients. It’s important to take time off, even while working virtually.”

Shane Wilson, Owner of Wilson Cycle Servicing and Repair: “I started my business to help children from low-income backgrounds to go cycling while on holiday. A lot of us take it for granted, but having access to a bike can be out of reach for some children, and I think it's important that everyone gets the chance to exercise and have fun.

“As a business owner I do think that it's important to take time off, especially after the last year. I haven’t taken any holiday since the beginning of the pandemic because I was focussed on keeping my family safe. However, I have booked a staycation for next year, by which time I'm aiming to set up a shop so I can reach more families in need."

1. 469 small business owners were surveyed between 10/05/21 - 24/05/21

2. 456 small business owners were surveyed between 04/08/20 - 10/08/20

(Data available on request)

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Charlotte is a PR & Communications specialist at iwoca.

Article updated on: 10 August 2021

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