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Salary Survey: Holiday allowance

Written by: Richard Simmons
Published on: 14 Jun 2015

    Holiday allowances are fairly standard across the legal profession – and the entire UK workforce, for that matter. Some employers are slightly more generous than others when it comes to paid leave but they stay within fairly basic parameters.

    It’s a rare law firm that goes down the Richard Branson route of telling staff to take as much holiday as they like – although US firm Quinn Emanuel made headlines in 2014 by giving its associates $2,000 to go and work anywhere in the world for a week.

    It comes as no surprise, then, to discover that most lawyers (58 per cent) get between 20 and 25 days of paid holiday (excluding bank holidays) a year, while the bulk of the rest (33 per cent) get between 26 and 30 days.

    However, The Lawyer wanted to find the answer to another question: how much of that holiday actually gets taken? In a profession where there’s constant demand to meet targets, bill hours and serve clients 24/7, how comfortable do lawyers feel with taking time off?

    The results could be read as encouraging or depressing, depending on your point of view. Overall, only 58 per cent of respondents used up all their holiday last year. The fact that four out of 10 lawyers don’t take their full allowance could be read as a cause for concern. However, 92 per cent took at least three-quarters of their allotted vacation and only 4 per cent took less than half their holiday or none at all.

    The region dragging the overall average down was London, where just 56 per cent of lawyers took all their holiday allowance. Outside London, the average was closer to 66 per cent. The region where lawyers were most likely to use up their full holiday entitlement was the North West, where 67.8 per cent did so last year.

    The survey also showed the effect that making partner has on the amount of holiday taken. Far from being a ticket to an easy life and long weeks on the golf course, partnership equals a sharp drop-off in vacation time. Across all associate levels, about 60 per cent take their full holiday allowance. This is true even among senior associates, where you might imagine that a high level of responsibility combined with partnership ambitions might encourage lawyers to forgo time off.

    There is a big drop when it comes to partner level: only 44 per cent take their full holiday allowance. However, partners do take most of their annual leave: only 8 per cent take less than half of what they are entitled to – though this is still high compared to their subordinates. Across all associate levels, only about 2.5 per cent take less than half their holiday.

    This survey is restricted to the UK, but it would be interesting to see a similar study done for New York lawyers. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that many first-year associates in the Big Apple feel uncomfortable taking more than a few days of holiday per year.

    Salary Survey Holiday Graph

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