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Holidays waiting to happen: Australian workers, 134 million days of annual leave, and travel plans

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2015-June 2016, n=4,984. Base: Australians 14+ in paid employment who are entitled to annual leave

With the Christmas holiday season gradually coming into view, it seems an opportune moment to remind members of Australia’s paid workforce that they have 133,737,000 days’ worth of annual leave accrued between them, according to the latest figures from Roy Morgan Research—amounting to an average of almost 16 days each. Sounds like a good excuse to start packing!

More than a third (33.9%) of the nation’s 8.5 million paid workers have four or more weeks’ worth of annual leave accrued, a markedly higher proportion than those with between two and four weeks (25.8%) or less than two weeks’ due (23.4%).

The chart below reveals a more detailed breakdown of the amount of leave owed to Australian workers. Incredibly, 17.0% of workers don’t know how much annual leave they have accrued, while a not-insubstantial 3.0% of workers (257,000 people) currently have 10 or more weeks racked up!

Annual leave owed to Australia’s paid workers


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), July 2015-June 2016, n=4,984. Base: Australians 14+ in paid employment who are entitled to annual leave

In good news for tourism operators, destination marketers and airlines (not to mention employers), just over eight in every 10 (80.8%) paid employees in Australia intend to take a holiday some time in the coming 12 months.

No holiday planned? You’re not alone

There does not appear to be an obvious correlation between amount of leave accrued and holiday intention – or lack thereof, for that matter. Workers with between four and five weeks’ owed to them are the most likely to have no holiday plans at all (15.6%), while those with balances of six weeks and more are more likely to have no travel plans than those with between one and four weeks.

While a zero-leave balance can get in the way of a holiday, it doesn’t deter the vast majority of these workers — 83.2% of whom are planning to take a trip in the next 12 months.  Clearly, travel is a priority for these folks (hence the non-existent leave balance!)

But what of these hard-working individuals with four or more weeks’ leave owed to them, but no holiday intentions whatsoever? While they come from a number of professions, Roy Morgan deep data reveals that people employed in the wholesaling and manufacturing industries are more likely than those in other sectors to be in this position. (Readers with good memories may recall Roy Morgan’s finding last year that full-time workers in these industries had particularly high average annual leave balances – clearly, little has changed…)

A more holistic way of understanding these leave-hoarders is to view them through the lens of Roy Morgan’s detailed consumer profiling tool, Helix Personas. This tells us that members of the Today’s Families Community are more likely than the average Australian worker to be racking up their annual leave with no plans to use it (at least, not for a holiday).

Usually young, tight-knit family units living in the outer suburbs, Today’s Families earn above-average incomes which are quickly consumed by their financial commitments: the kids’ school fees, the mortgage, car repayments—the list goes on! Home is definitely where the heart is for these folks, and while they won’t think twice about purchasing the latest home entertainment equipment or investing in a new pool, holidays are not necessarily such a high priority for them.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“To hoard leave or to take a holiday? With Australia’s 8.5 million-strong paid workforce currently owed an average of nearly 16 days’ annual leave each, it seems we’re all behind on our holiday schedules!

“Fortunately, more than 80% of Australian workers are planning to take at least one holiday in the coming 12 months. As we have found in the past, holidays can have a positive impact on a person’s state of mind: surely a mutually beneficial outcome for employee and employer.

“However, it is concerning that more than half a million workers with leave balances of four weeks or more have no plans to take a holiday at any time in the foreseeable future. This places pressure on both employers (the more leave its staff have racked up, the costlier it becomes for them) and employees (who risk becoming burnt out).

 “Obviously, knowing that so many workers are planning to take a trip is a great opportunity for tourism bodies and destination marketers, who can use the deep data contained in Roy Morgan’s Holiday Tracking Survey to pin-point those holiday intenders with an interest in visiting their particular region, for example, or any other specific holiday preferences.

“Less obviously, leave-hoarders also represent an opportunity for these businesses. With plenty of potential holiday time up their sleeves, these workers may simply need some extra persuasion that it’s time to pack their bags. Again, our Holiday Tracker Survey can provide a detailed profile of who these people are and what makes them tick, allowing for more effective, targeted marketing.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%