With holidays both at home and abroad being cancelled in line with the coronavirus restrictions, unsurprisingly many employees are cancelling their annual leave as their plans have now changed. But this can cause issues for employers, as HR Services Director, Kate Rigby explains.

Whilst there will clearly be key workers, who are likely to be unable to take holiday during this period and the government has enabled the carry-over of four weeks of their holiday to very rightfully protect their holiday entitlement, this will not be applicable to all.

Many of us currently find ourselves, unusually working from home in light of the global pandemic and whilst your employees may not feel the need to take their annual leave, there are some important reasons why you should encourage your teams to take their annual leave. 

  • Well-being – how many of us sit in front of our screens for longer when working at home without taking a proper break? Taking annual leave allows employees to focus on their wellbeing and improve their mental health at this uncertain time
  • To ensure you have your team fully bolstered when things recover and relaunch later in the year
  • To ensure your employees don’t have a huge build up of accrued annual leave, making it difficult to manage this when we return back to business as usual

To ensure you are protecting your team’s well-being as well as protecting your business further down the line, you are able to decline any requests to cancel any holiday.  These are likely to have been approved in accordance with your holiday policy, therefore spread across the team enabling enough resource to cover for those that are off.  Delaying this may cause an issue with managing your resources effectively at a later date.

For those employees that have not yet booked much of their annual leave entitlement, we would also recommend requesting your employees to book any accrued leave up to the end of a certain period e.g. June/July so they don’t have lots to carry forward to later in the year.  For some employees, this could be asking them to take a large chunk of holiday and then perhaps smaller periods of absence to avoid the need for them taking it all in one go during a period of restriction.  Or perhaps it works for your business and would be welcomed by your employees to ask them to take a day off per week for say the next 3 months. 

Either way, you are avoiding a mass of holiday bookings when we go back to the office and your business moves back towards its usual rate (in many cases may well be much busier catching up!), which will then cause you a problem.

Unless your contract or employee handbook states otherwise, you are legally able to enforce your employees to take their holiday at the dates you specify them to be taken, as long as you give double the amount of notice for any holiday as you are asking the employee to take off.  That said, we would always advise talking the reasoning through with your team and obtaining their buy in wherever possible to ensure employee engagement remains as high as possible during what is a challenging time for all.

Linked to this is of course, after many debates, the question of whether your employees can be forced to take holiday during any furlough leave, we do now have government guidance on this stating you can, claiming back 80% of the eligible amount of the employees pay during this period through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the same normal way.  As an employer you will need to top this holiday period up to 100% based on normal remuneration for at least 4 weeks of the EU minimum leave. 

As of 6th April, normal remuneration is assessed over an average of 52 weeks so will essentially be their normal pay.  Whilst of course, this is a cost to your business during a challenging time, the clear advantage being, when the employee returns to work, their annual leave entitlement has been used rather than this being taken when you need your teams the most.

If you would like to discuss any HR issues that you might have, particularly those you may have at this challenging time, please get in touch with the team. Call us on +44 203 538 5311 or email: hello@hrrevolution.co.uk