The effects of lockdown continue to alter not only our social life, but our work one too. Managing annual leave post lockdown is an ongoing challenge for employers, who want to manage their staff’s need for relaxation and down time with families and friends, but also have to balance the operational needs of their business. The importance of a healthy workforce should never be overlooked but this can be problematic if there is a sudden surge of staff all requesting time off, at once.
Carried over leave
In March 2020, the government introduced a temporary law to enable employees to carry annual leave from the previous year into 2021 and now 2022. Up to 4 weeks can be carried over if it was not practical to take holidays due to Covid-19 (not the full 5.6 working weeks or more if employees have enhanced holidays).
Employers or HR professionals can say no to requests to carry leave over, but to do so they must provide evidence that they’ve taken sufficient steps to remind workers to use their holidays in the current holiday year. Also if you’ve stopped workers taking annual leave due to the current circumstances, and/or you have not actively encouraged all staff to take their annual leave, you must allow staff to carry holiday over.
Can employers be forced to take annual leave at a particular time?
In terms of the Working Time Regulations, you can give notice to a worker that they must take annual leave on specified dates. The notice must be at least twice the length of the period of leave that the worker is being ordered to take. So, if you want to insist on a worker taking two weeks’ leave, you must give at least four weeks’ notice. However, you must check your contracts of employment to see whether these rules have been dispelled.
Rather than issuing formal notice requiring workers to take holidays, there is also the option of asking workers to take a certain number of days holiday, or percentage of their holiday entitlement, by a specified date.
If an employee is taking annual leave, they must be paid a full salary, even if they are on reduced pay due to being furloughed. The CJRS is planned to end at the end of September 2021 and if a company is still not in a position to return their employees to work at that point, employers can either encourage or enforce annual leave (giving sufficient notice) to avoid lay-offs, short-time working, and a backlog of annual leave.
Prioritising business needs and staff well-being may well be a juggling act, but one which can be done efficiently and of benefit to all. For further advice on managing annual leave post lockdown please contact us here.