It may feel counter productive to talk about annual leave when we are easing out of lockdown and/or returning from furlough leave, but it’s an important consideration in planning the workload for the rest of the year.

Without upfront planning and discussion, many businesses will feel pressure as employees look to request time off to later in the year just as workloads are starting to pick up.

The Government has temporarily amended the Working Time Directive to allow for more carry over of leave into next year that would have otherwise been lost due to coronavirus. This amendment is intended to support businesses where there hasn’t been the opportunity to take leave due to demand created by the coronavirus e.g key workers, healthcare professionals or supermarket workers (see below for more information).

However, it’s likely that many employees might want time off to spend with friends or family they haven’t been able to see for months or just to take a break from what may have been a challenging time for everyone.

Here are some top considerations in planning your team’s annual leave:

  • Know the numbers

The first step is to understand how much leave your employees have left to take for this year, it’s important to know that employees on any leave, including furlough, will still be accruing leave whilst the are away.

  • Review the workload

Look at the pipeline of work or projects set for the next six months, do you have peak periods or time where things are normally quieter? Consider asking employees to take time on in quieter times.

  • Create a plan

Are you going to ask your team to take time off at specific times? Are you going to ask employees to take leave accrued this quarter?  Are you being fair in who you are asking? Our HR consultants can give advice on how to take a fair approach.

  • Discuss with your team

Work with them to share the challenges and also understand their expectations or needs. They might still need to take leave to cover childcare or care for other dependants as schools and care facilities gradually open and ramp up their services.

  • Promote time off to help with employee wellbeing

Keep track of annual leave taken and encourage, where possible, employees to take leave. Whilst there might be an increase in workload towards the end of the year, make sure that employees are still taking regular breaks to avoid burn out and complying with the Health and Safety guidelines.

  • Keep a record

Ensure that your annual leave records are up to date to reflect any leave that might be carried over into 2021 to ensure that this is taken before any other leave.

  • Monitor the situation

We still don’t know what the short-term future holds and if there might be the need for further lockdowns. Keep communicating with your teams and our HR consultants can work with you to find solutions to any annual leave issues.

FAQs

Can I request that my team take leave?

Yes, asking employees to take leave might be new to many employers who are more used to granting leave requests from employees. We recommend working with the employee so that they understand why you are making the request, but the best practice approach is to give them twice the amount of notice of the leave you wish to take. For example, you would need to give two weeks’ notice if you wish them to take one week of leave.

Can I ask employees to postpone their holidays?

Yes, if there is a business need to do this. If this is required then employees need to be informed as quickly as possible to ensure they have as much notice as they can to rearrange plans.

Can I refuse a leave request?

Yes, you can refuse an employee’s leave request. This should only be for valid business reasons to avoid claims of unfair or discriminatory treatment between employees. Many employers have first come, first served policy to requesting leave to ensure business coverage during critical points in the year. It’s recommended you meet with an employee as soon as you are able if you are going to decline their annual leave request to explain the reasons and avoid any fall out from employees starting to making arrangements for their leave.

Do my team have right to carry over leave into next year?

The Working Time Directive amendment to carry leave over isn’t intended to supersede any carry over policy that you may already have in place, it’s intended to help if you don’t have a carry over policy or it’s insufficient. Employees on long term leave e.g maternity or parental leave are still entitled to carry over leave as they could before the amendment. We recommend identifying employees who might have to carry over leave and working with them to plan when they will be able to take the leave in the next year.

What happens if my employee has run out of leave?

Some employees may have used up their annual leave to cover childcare or for other reasons during the lockdown period but wish to have some time off later in the year. You might wish to consider working additional hours to take off in lieu or taking unpaid leave. Our HR consultants can give advice on how to take a fair approach.

For more advice on managing leave during this time get in touch and we would be delighted to help.

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