One quarter of the UK self-employed take no annual leave.

Many of us dream about working for ourselves, reporting to no one, deciding our own working hours, and taking holidays as often as we can. However, new research conducted by ICM on behalf of Boox, the fast and simple cloud based accountancy service, highlights the misconceptions of the self-employed lifestyle, revealing the true work/life balance of the self-employed worker.

The number of self-employed workers in the United Kingdom and Ireland has recently soared to a 20-year high of 4.1milllion (12% of the working population) according to the Office for National Statistics. Although many of us have realised the dream of working for ourselves, the reality is not always so rosy with 24% of self-employed workers taking no holiday at all each year compared to 5% of permanent workers. Additionally, a staggering 11% of contractors have never taken a holiday due to work demands.

Not only do the self-employed enjoy less holiday time but research suggests that when on holiday they aren’t able to switch work mode off, turning their vacation into a workation. In fact, 45% of self-employed admitted to working whilst on holiday, compared to only 23% of those in permanent employment. Almost one in four self-employed (24%) also revealed that they can’t enjoy holidays because of the cost and loss of earnings associated with the break. Cancelling holidays also shows as a burden on the UK workforce with 20% of self-employed workers having had to abandon holiday plans due to hectic work schedules.

According to Phillip Venn, Managing Director of Boox, many self-employed workers don’t take holiday due to retreat anxiety, “the reality is that when we are in charge of our own business the stresses and strains of securing our next contract or missing a deadline play a much greater role in our lives. This makes it harder to take time out and if we do manage to get away, retreat anxiety makes it that much more difficult to switch off from our work life.” Venn continues, “The self-employed lifestyle can be very stressful. Services like Boox, designed to support the admin pressures that accountancy brings, allow contractors to focus on what is important to them… whether that is work or play.”

But it isn’t all bad news for the self-employed. Despite 48% of self-employed workers take less time off than permanent employees, 56% believe that they still have a better work/life balance when compared to those in full time employment. 35% also agree that the ability to work in periods that suit them remains a major benefit to self-employed working.