Avoiding the annual leave avalanche?

Due to lockdown cancelled holidays, furlough and home working the reality is that many employees will have taken less annual leave in 2020 than would ordinarily have been the case. Therefore, as business picks up, employers may find themselves trying to manage an avalanche of annual leave requests, just at a time when the business requires more staff. What options do you have to manage the onslaught?

It is important that businesses monitor the level of leave taken by employees to ensure that employees have not accrued a significant amount of holiday that they may need to use before the end of the current leave year and, where necessary, requiring that they take holiday  at a prescribed time. Remember that employees continue to accrue holiday during any furlough period, and they can be required to take holiday whilst on furlough. If a business requires an employee to take holiday, it must give double the notice of the duration of the holiday period required, it is therefore important to factor this in when planning. If employees take holiday during furlough, whether at their own or the businesses request, they must be paid at their normal rate of pay rather than the reduced furlough pay.

If, because of Covid19, it is not reasonably practicable for staff to take all of their holiday in the current leave year, emergency legislation now allows for up to four weeks of statutory holiday to be carried forward into the next two leave years.  For some businesses this may prove necessary, to manage staffing levels, however, this may be just postponing the problem.

Where employees are entitled to contractual leave, in excess of statutory entitlement, it may be possible to buy back some leave, but this may only be applied to leave in excess of 5.6 weeks and must be done with caution. Employers should ensure that there is a clear agreement in place and should avoid putting pressure on employees to give up holiday entitlement in order to avoid future claims.  Employers would also be wise to consider specific objections to taking leave, to avoid potential disputes and consider any potential discriminatory arguments.

Whilst annual leave may not be top of the priority list, it is a staffing issue that needs to be managed now to prevent problems in the future.

Lawspeed can assist with advice on managing holiday, notice requirements, dealing with disputes and employment contract and policies. Contact the Lawspeed Employment Team on 01273 236 236 or [email protected]

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