Take time off work? Give me a break!

May may have been a month of bank holidays but we’re not enjoying them as much as we should. At least that’s the finding of one survey that found that seven in ten small business owners take fewer than 20 days off each year.

That’s well below the UK statutory annual leave entitlement of 28. They’re also working over 46 hours a week on average – 10 hours more than the average working hours clocked up by workers in the UK – 36.4 hours according to ONS data. 

Despite the need for a break, many small business owners feel that time off simply isn’t possible. Research from Business Advice found that SMEs could stand to lose as much as £2,163 over the course of a year if they opted to close over the bank holiday periods –  almost as much as the median monthly wage in the UK.

With almost one in six believing a lack of time off is directly impacting their mental health, nine in 10 said that they believe the government is not doing enough to support the mental health of the self-employed.

The findings were contained in a poll of 700 businesses by insurer Simply Business and Mental Health at Work.

One such case is Eglel Gomaa, owner of Girasole Taste of Italy Restaurant in Seven Sisters, London. She said: “A psychologist who works up the road from my restaurant told me that their clients come for coffee at Girasole because they see it as an oasis. I am so happy to hear that – but there is no one to offer support to me.

“I always put my customers and my team before myself, and that often means that I do not take time off. Bank holidays, though they are great for the restaurant, definitely equate to me having no time off. 

 “I put my hands up to anyone who starts their own business – it’s no mean feat. I will not be renewing my lease this year because I have faced such hardship, both financially and mentally. After almost nine years in business, I will be sad to say goodbye to my beautiful restaurant, my fabulous team and my lovely customers.”

The two organisations have partnered  on a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, and has donated £100,000 to support the mental health of the UK’s self-employed.

Simply Business CEO Bea Montoya said: “The worrying state of small business owners’ mental health has been laid bare– with over half suffering from poor mental health in the past 12 months alone. During a cost-of-living crisis, the self-employed are working at capacity. Long hours, rare breaks and sleepless nights are leaving many on the brink of burnout. 

“And the situation should concern us all. Small businesses are vital to both our economic recovery and the prosperity of our communities, and this will only compound the challenges of an increasingly economically inactive population.”