We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday – Except SME Owners

Your friend is thrilled with that package deal he got to Malta and can’t stop telling you how much he’s looking forward to a sun-drenched fortnight of R&R.

However, if you’re the decision maker in a small business or the owner of one, you’re probably wishing he would rein in his enthusiasm – because according to the latest SME Risk Index from insurance giant Zurich, you’re likely to find it difficult to get a break at all.

If you do, brilliant; share your experiences with us. But in the meantime, share the experiences of those less fortunate…

Sacrifices for Success

Zurich’s survey of over 1,000 British SMEs showed just how great a sacrifice many decision makers have to make to ensure the success of their enterprise, revealing that:

* 43% had not booked a break of over 5 working days in the next year – far higher than the 29% of SME owners who took a 5 day plus break last year
* 74% of small business owners took 25 days or fewer holiday last year
* 48% took 20 days or fewer
* Almost a third (31%) took 15 days or fewer
* 8% did not take any holiday at all

Yet decision makers in larger businesses don’t appear to be under the same pressures. A survey of almost 300 larger companies showed that 42% of them actually took more than 25 days of holiday in the last 12 months. 57% took 25 days or fewer holiday last year, with only 19% taking fewer than 20 days, 8% taking 15 days or fewer and only a meagre 2% not taking a break at all.

Roles and Responsibility

It seems obvious that the reason for the difference between holiday taken by those in large and small businesses is a knowledge of the responsibility they hold and the significance of their role within their company. Generally speaking, it’s far easier in larger companies for other staff to cover the role and responsibilities of those on leave.

48% of SME decision makers said that they felt taking more holiday than they do currently would negatively impact their business, while this was a concern for only 28% in larger businesses.

Flexible, Family Friendly Working Hours

However, while the survey’s results so deem to indicate there’s a great deal of pressure on SME decision makers, it also showed that they enjoy greater flexibility in their working hours than their large business counterparts – and often, fewer working hours, too.

A lucky 24% of small business decision makers said that they work just 35 hours per week or less, while 56% admitted to working over 40 hours a week and 20% to working more than 50 hours per week. However, in larger businesses, only 8% have the luxury of working fewer than 35 hours weekly, with a huge 73% of key decision makers working more than 40 hours per week and 26% working more than 50.

Anne Griffiths, Head of SME Propositions at Zurich UK, says, “While the common perception that working for yourself provides day-to-day flexibility appears to ring true, it is undeniable that running your own business is a balancing act. Employees at larger businesses are reporting the freedom to take more holiday without affecting business operations, where smaller businesses are really feeling the strain in holiday season.


“The sheer responsibility of owning a business is clearly weighing heavy on business owners’ shoulders. It is imperative that small business owners are making use of all the support available to them to make sure their businesses are healthy and stable enough to take some well-deserved time off.”

If you’re a small business owner, how many days holiday do you manage to take a year? How long do you feel that you can take away from your business at a stretch – a few days, a week, a fortnight?

Do you feel your absence has a negative impact on your business, and what strategies do you use to try to reduce this? Let us know.

Stephanie Whalley
Serial snacker, compulsive cocktail sipper and full time wordsmith with a penchant for alliteration, all things marketing and pineapple on pizza.