Family split: Parents forced to take separate summer breaks

4 July 2016

  • Balancing school and work holidays leave many unable to take family break
  • Quarter of parents admit to ‘playing hooky’ in order to get cheaper deals
  • Younger parents more willing to go it alone on holiday

Three quarters of British parents will have to split their leave this summer and one in ten will be forced to go away without their partner, according to research from Nationwide Savings.

On the build up to the school summer holidays, Nationwide’s third national survey of 2,000 working parents reveals the many struggles they face in order to take a family break – and the unintended consequences, particularly for colleagues without children.

Family factors:

Almost three quarters (73%) of parents have to split their leave from work with their partner in order to look after children during school holidays, leaving less time for the family to enjoy a break together. Additionally, three in ten (30%) have had to go away on holiday minus their partner, with around one in ten (9%) regularly doing so, due to work pressures.

A further 11 per cent maintain they are only entitled to enough leave for one of them to look after their children at a time. The poll shows 10 per cent say it has been ‘some time’ since they’ve holidayed together.

The research shows that younger parents are most likely affected by having to travel solo with their children, with 39 per cent of 25-34-year-olds stating they have had to go on holiday without their partner due to having to split leave. This compares to 28 per cent of those in the 35-44 age bracket and 25 per cent of those aged 45-54. Equally, a fifth (20%) of those aged 25-34 only have enough leave for one of us to provide childcare at a time, compared to just 10 per cent of 35-44-year-olds, and 6 per cent of those in the 45-54 demographic.

Playing hooky for holidays?

The continued pressure to keep to individual schools’ timetables saw a quarter (25%) of those surveyed stating their child was ill in order to take a term-time break – an issue that increases when siblings do not attend the same school or are split across establishments operated by different education authorities.

Only one in ten (11%) of those surveyed reported they were not adversely impacted by the need to cover school holiday childcare because it was either covered by a non-working partner, other relatives or friends, or because they paid for additional care. Some 7 per cent of men have stay-at-home partners, compared to 3 per cent of women.

Age also appears to have an effect on whether parents are willing to risk a fine for taking their children out of school, with 31 per cent of 25-34-year-olds maintaining they have done so and 23 per cent of those aged 35-44. Just over a quarter of those aged 45-54 admitted to taking a ‘hooky holiday’ (22%).

Regionally, the top five areas most likely to ‘play hooky’ for holidays are: West Midlands (29%), London/ East Midlands (28%), North East (27%); Northern Ireland (26%) and Wales/ East Anglia (25%). The lowest areas were Scotland and the South West, at 15 per cent.

Calendar chaos:

More than four in five working parents (81%) experience difficulty in booking off the time they need for holidays. Some three in five (61%) have to book holidays at least three months in advance, while one in five (21%) usually book their holidays as soon as the work calendar starts so that childcare can be covered at difficult times such as Christmas and summer holidays. For almost half of parents (45%) this tactic left them feeling guilty about the effect on their work colleagues without children.

Office outcomes:

For colleagues without children, more than a quarter (28%) feel workplace etiquette dictates that they should not book leave during school holiday periods. More than a third (36%) say they would avoid doing so entirely, and a further one in six (16%) try to avoid them altogether. Close to half (45%) of those without children admitted they felt annoyed or fed up that colleagues with families always get summer and/or Christmas holidays off, with more women (50%) than men (39%) expressing this frustration.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Nationwide’s Head of Savings Policy, said: “Holidays are an essential part of family life, offering a break from the hustle and bustle and quality time spent together. But the timing is often crucial with costs continuing to surge during peak seasons. This cost differential is one of the reasons why we continue to encourage customers to start budgeting and saving as early as possible, so that they can take into account the cost of going away.

“As our research shows, planning a family holiday can be a tricky process, with parents revealing not just the financial pressures but also the impact on family and working relationships”.

Research was conducted on behalf of Nationwide Building Society by OnePoll between 25/5/16 and 7/6/16 – among 2000 working adults with school age children and 2000 working adults without children.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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