News and Events

Managing back-logs of annual leave

View profile for Chloe Pereira
  • Posted
  • Author
Managing annual leave during Coronavirus

One of the employment side effects of the COVID pandemic is back logs of annual leave – whether because employees have been on furlough, working so much they couldn’t take holiday, or cancelling it because they couldn’t travel. 

As we near the end of the year, many employers are considering what the options are, especially if you won’t want everyone taking holiday at the same time. An employer can require an employee to take, or not take, holiday on specific dates, and there have been some changes in the law due to COVID which may also help.

Can employees carry forward holiday?

Yes – emergency legislation means that where employees have been prevented by the COVID pandemic from taking their holiday, they can carry it forward to the next leave year This applies to the minimum 4 weeks afforded under the Working Time Regulations, which previously, employees were not permitted to carry forward.

However, this only applies where it hasn’t been “reasonably practicable” for the employee to take their holiday in the current leave year and the government guidance states that employers should do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that the worker is able to take as much of their leave as possible in the year to which it relates.

It’s important to be very clear with employees who carry leave forward when they are expected to take it – they have up to 2 years to use that leave but you can require them to take carried over leave first.

Can employers require employees to take holiday at a specific time?

Yes – provided you follow contractual and/or statutory requirements. The employment contract might permit the employer to require an employee to take unused holiday during a period of notice or even at a specific time (e.g. Christmas shut down). If there is no such contractual provision then employers can rely on the statutory notice provisions whereby you give twice the amount of notice as the length of holiday you want the employee to take, e.g. 4 days’ notice to take 2 days holiday.

Especially for businesses who will be quieter due to the impact of COVID, you might decide to give staff notice to take holiday at specific times before the end of the year – whether in rotation or as a result of a complete shutdown.

Can employers buy back holiday?

If you provide holiday in excess of the minimum statutory entitlement, you could look at buying back that excess (i.e. paying it out to the employee without them taking the time off). That’s likely to be an attractive option only if the employee has a high amount of accrued holiday and the value of them working outweighs the additional payment.

For advice and support on managing back-logs of annual leave call us now for a friendly chat about your needs.