Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 working weeks of paid annual leave each year. This works out as 28 days for those who work a five-day week. What this entitlement means is that you must give employees the opportunity to take this amount of annual leave per year as a minimum.
In light of the Government’s roadmap to ease restrictions, an increasing number of employees may wish to book holidays around the same time this year. England’s roadmap reads that, if coronavirus data proves favourable, all restrictions will be lifted in the country no earlier than 21 June 2021. It’s likely that most annual leave bookings may fall towards this period. As an employer, you have flexibility to refuse annual leave requests and you may also decide when leave can or cannot be taken, and how it is taken. With that in mind, you may let your employees reserve their annual leave until the summer months. This will mean you will need to think carefully about how your business needs will be prioritised.
MANAGING LEAVE REQUESTS
As an employer, business needs will be the main priority, but you also have a duty of care towards safeguarding employees’ health and safety. Mental health has taken centre stage over the past year as coronavirus has had a huge impact on how we interact. For this reason, you may feel inclined to grant leave requests at a time when relaxation and enjoyment is somewhat guaranteed.
However, when it comes to the business itself, you will need to consider how an employee’s workload will be managed. How can you best navigate multiple requests around the same time? HR or line managers can assess the situation on a case-by-case basis to determine whether leave can be taken at any given time and by any number of people at once. They will also be able to determine the likelihood of work being reshuffled around when a team member is on leave. You should also consider whether those going on leave can meet any deadlines before their holiday begins.
Contrary to popular belief, staff do not have a right to take annual leave whenever they wish. They must request leave, and by implication that means employers have the right to turn down that request. Employers also have the ability to enforce uptake of annual leave. However, although they have this right, they must give staff double the length of the enforced leave as notice. For example, if employers want an employee to take three days’ worth of leave, notice of six days must be given in advance.
This may mean that a period of prebooked leave will need to be cancelled. This is likely to cause complications and potentially affect morale and even retention with the employee, as they may well have made arrangements. If annual leave is cancelled without good business reason and the employee suffers financial loss, there may be cause for a claim of constructive dismissal, too. So, if you are considering this option with staff, tread carefully.
CARRYING OVER ANNUAL LEAVE
Despite enforcing annual leave, employers may find that employees may not be able to take all of their leave in the year in which it is accrued. Under normal circumstances, at least four weeks of the 5.6 weeks’ leave entitlement must be taken in its year of accrual, except in the following circumstances:
• Up to 5.6 weeks of annual leave can be carried over into the next leave year where family leave is concerned, e.g. maternity leave, etc.
• Up to four weeks of annual leave can be carried over and used within 18 months of sick leave ending.
The impact of coronavirus has led the Government to pass emergency legislation on this. Now, employees can carry over four weeks of leave that could not usually be carried over. This is in the case that it is not “reasonably practicable” to take it in the current leave year. The Government still expects that employers should encourage uptake of leave where possible. Indeed, it has also clearly specified the reasons where carry over will be permitted.
Employers need to think carefully about how to manage annual leave as restrictions are eased across the UK. It’s important to keep business needs in mind but also consider that leave requests may need to be granted in order to help employees with any mental health issues they may be facing.
If you’re uncertain how to handle an employee matter involving annual leave requests, contact Nick for comprehensive, confidential advice using the contact details in the bio box.
Nick Babington is director of Croner Group. He delivers client-based solutions to businesses of all sizes and advises on employment law, health and safety legislation and good commercial practice. His main objective is to demonstrate the necessity of keeping your business up to date with the constant changes in employment law and business safety. Contact Nick: 07896 036 993/Nick.Babington@croner. co.uk