So many holidays, too little time?

It seems a lifetime ago that lockdown was first announced.  As a result of the pandemic, fewer people have been travelling to their usual holiday destinations and you may have employees who have been reluctant or unable to take annual leave.  It may also be that you have employees who have been furloughed and not wanted to use up their annual leave entitlement during that period.

With the end of the year fast approaching (only 10 more Mondays before Christmas – yes, that shocked me too!) which may also be the end of your current holiday year, now is the time to review who still has leave to take so that you can plan for them to take it at a mutually convenient time, that has least impact on your business.

In the majority of circumstances, employees do not have the right to carry annual leave over into the next holiday year.  Statutory annual leave entitlement is 5.6 weeks (inclusive of bank holidays) and previously, under the EU Working Time Directive, at least 4 weeks must be taken during the current holiday year.

However, in response to the global pandemic, there has been a recent change in law which states that, if an employee cannot take leave because of the impact of the coronavirus on their work or the employer, any untaken statutory leave entitlement of up to 4 weeks can now be carried forward and taken over the next two years.

Legislation also allows an employer to request that employees takes annual leave at a specific time.  This option requires you as the employer to notify the employee in writing that you require them to take holiday at a specified time and give notice that is twice the length of the leave.  For example, 1 week’s annual leave would require you to give at least 2 weeks’ written notice. Of course, some employees may not be happy about being ‘forced’ to take time off, therefore the message needs to reassure them that it is in their best interests and intended to benefit their well-being.

Very rare, but you may also have a contractual agreement for the payment in lieu of any accrued annual leave entitlement above the statutory minimum.  Remember though, such payments cannot be made if your organisation only gives the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks.

Word to the wise…make sure that whatever stance you take, you consider the implications to the business and the employee, and that your message is consistent across your workforce as you do not want to leave yourself open to claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.

Additionally, if you have anyone who has not been able to take their annual leave due to long term sickness absence or maternity/adoption/shared parental leave you will need to give them special consideration and look at each case individually in conjunction with their employment contract and the relevant policies that you have in place.

It is also worth considering why statutory annual leave entitlement is in place.  We all need a break and time to switch off.  Speak with your workforce, are some more weary than others? Have they got lots of annual leave accrued and need to take a break?

Are you in that boat yourself as the business owner or leader? In which case, set the example and be kind to yourself and book some time off!

Looking to the future, review your policies and ensure your people managers are trained to monitor annual leave and encourage it to be taken proportionately throughout the year.

Need help?  Please get in touch with one of the Guardian Business Services team who will be happy to give advice or review your polices and procedures.

Joy Parkes, HR Consultant, Guardian Business Services

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