A few weeks ago I posted a well received discussion on here about people with jobs asking the rest of us to do free work. Well those requests have noticeably stopped just for the moment as the people with jobs are on annual leave.

Yes it’s that time of the year again, when emails bounce back almost immediately with the news that ‘I’m on annual leave’. Why?

Not the bouncing back, I don’t mind that at all, it’s the phrase ‘annual leave’ that leaves me cold.

Whatever was wrong with the word ‘holidays’ that it gets replaced with this joyless military sounding abomination. This implication that all the time you spend not chained to your job holding desk is by leave of some superior being? It’s humiliating, so aren’t you humiliated?

I entirely get that in work places holidays need organising. And in my days as a trade union rep I was always happy to go in and negotiate for more holidays for everyone. But they were holidays. If we’d had to go in and negotiate for ‘annual leave’ it would have sucked all the socialism out of us because we’d have felt like servants doffing our caps.

So I know this is definitely not a matter of life and death and this post itself is more of a long tweet than a regular blog post. But please consider thinking of your time off as holidays. ‘Holidays’ is a lovely word and very close to ‘holy days’. Because that’s what they are these days, holy, your time, your life and to be enjoyed with all your heart.

And ‘annual leave’ is an abomination.



Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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  1. I do so love it Ronnie, when you challenge these things that slip so insidiously into our daily lives!! Really makes me stop and think!! We have had our holiday. A quick trip to Scotland to see family, coming back via Berlin to see a family member. Then I have had a proper good time on holiday with my kids and grandkids at the seaside in the Vendée where the beaches are long and the sands are golden!! Forgotten how much fun it was to splash in the sea, to kick a ball about on the beach and to build sandcastles and watch them get eaten away gradually by the tide….I would never dream of calling that ‘Annual leave’!!!

  2. beautifully said, kind of feel like when you’re on annual leave that’s when it’s acceptable to call you and say ‘sorry I know you’re away at the moment but would you mind…..’
    nah mate I’m on holiday. sod off

  3. “Annual leave” is a term I’m used to from 30 years in the Civil Service, which (certainly in my day) used a lot of the same terminology as the military. I find it odd that the term is getting used outside the Service, and I’m not going to get all sniffy about your fighting for “holidays”. I think we’re seeing various employers trying to regiment people more and more. You have to assume that for them, the 21st century happened to someone else.

    My familiarity with the term does mean that I make a distinction between “annual leave” and “holidays”, though. In my book, “annual leave” is the contractual entitlement which sets out how and when you can legitimately be out of the office not doing the employer’s business. “Holidays” are just that – when you get on a train, or a plane, or load up the car, and head off to somewhere else for some R&R. Speaking personally, in the four years I’ve been back in salaried employment, I’ve had all the “annual leave” I’ve been entitled to; but I’ve hardly had a proper “holiday” in that time at all (for various reasons).

    In my time as a TU rep, I concentrated on what things were, rather than what things were called. Then again, for the last twenty years, I was in a work environment that was, at best, TU-blind, and had no feeling for solidarity issues such as using traditional names for things (indeed, the first Director General in the organisation I worked for was fond of changing the names of things just because he could) and he relied on employing a lot of twentysomethings who preferred to think of themselves as “professionals” who didn’t need a TU because “we’re all professionals here”, “a manager is just another professional with a different hat on” and “because we’re a professional organisation, then anything the organisation does is professional and if I don’t like it, that’s Just How It Is and it must be my fault I don’t agree with it”. I struggled against these mindsets for twenty years, and never made that much of an inroad into them. Even when we had successes, the “Thatcher’s children” (as one of my comrades dubbed them) said that this was A Good Thing and applauded my work but never where anyone senior could see or hear them.

    Now I’m in the private sector, I move in different circles. Earlier this year, I went to a software testing conference. The bulk of software testers are millennials, and they are working hard to develop the concept of testing as a profession (because the role doesn’t get taken all that seriously in so many places). What I found interesting was that in amongst all the techie stuff, suddenly someone would stand up and make a presentation on diversity, or workplace stress, or some other issue where I suddenly had this great big wave of deja vu.

    I think that the wheel is coming round full circle, and many twentysomethings are looking for the sort of support and knowledge in the workplace that the TUs can provide. The problem is that most of them do not know their rights in these matters; most of their managers/company owners know even less about their workforce’s rights; and neither of them know what TUs can offer or understand the TU mindset. OTOH, I sometimes think that some TUs are a bit too fixated on the glorious past and on what things are called – which is where we came in! Indeed, one tester I know works in the finance sector, which is unionised – but I wonder how far through their workforce that unionisation spreads and which occupational groups they aim their recruitment at. It could be that each group has a blind spot that means that they miss each other…

    I wonder if, at some point in the near future, some group of millennials will find themselves re-inventing the trade union under a completely different name. The people I talk to at testing community events are very much like the people I used to meet at TU conferences – similar ideas, similar personalities, and very similar objectives. I see my role as a link to the past who can, at the appropriate moment, intervene and say “What you’ve got there, guys, is actually a trade union, or something very much like it. Now, if you do THIS, you can get the additional benefits of legal status and recognition and there will be nothing your employer(s) can do about it.”

    Someone has to do something about making certain that workers get a fair deal in the workplace; just leaving it to the good will of employers is too hit-and-miss. There’s a window of opportunity now and I for one am constantly staying alert to times and places where the right word at the right time and in the right place might just make a difference. And I don’t much care what that word actually IS, as long as it makes that difference.

  4. Staff adopt the language of management as easily as they don their lanyard and ID badges.

    That most workplaces now happily jog along without reference to post-capitalist ideas is not the fault of the workforce but a failure of those who would organise them and provide them with another way of looking at the world and work.

    In the same way that Marx eschewed the idea that all property is theft (because it somehow made the idea of property ok), perhaps we should eschew the idea of holidays full stop. My time is my time, noone else’s. I should be able to take my leave of you any time I choose.

    If you have chosen to limit my humanity by making this an annual allowance, shame on you. I name your chains as chains, and plot to be rid of them one day.

  5. I too hate the term ‘annual leave’, I think in the NHS it started to be used when the Personell Departments turned into the monster that is ‘Human Resources’. In our increasingly hard-pressed radiology department, we have to book any time off months in advance, as only two people from each ‘cohort’ can be off simultaneously. I’ve recently booked time off for September 2019! This obviously doesn’t seem to apply to the managers who are frequently off at the same time, or ‘working from home’. I fear an assault on our employment terms & conditions when, as seems likely, the NHS is handed to private healthcare companies.

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