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    Enforcing Annual Leave

    Published on April 22nd, 2021 | by Sophie West

    As a statutory minimum, every full-time employee is entitled to 20 days annual leave plus 8 bank holidays. This is pro-rated for part-time staff or those who’s hours vary. Some employers offer more, however they cannot offer less than the statutory minimum.

    Employees can generally choose when to take their annual leave throughout the holiday year provided the business agrees depending on staffing levels etc. but must make sure they use it all within the holiday year. However, with the current lockdowns it is unlikely that employees are willing to book holiday when they cannot go anywhere.

    On the other hand, employers have a duty of care in respect of the spread of annual leave throughout the holiday year. This is to elevate and prevent absenteeism related to stress or exhaustion, for those who are working their usual working pattern.

    Additionally, if no one takes annual leave during the lockdown period, it could potentially lead to an influx of annual leave requests after lockdown ends which will make business continuity tricky. Also, once lockdown is lifted, employees will be trying to squeeze a whole years’ worth of annual leave into the remaining months of the year.

    This leads us to the all-important question… can employers force employees to take annual leave by a certain time? The short answer to that question is yes.

    It’s never an easy subject as an employer to ‘force’ employees to take their annual leave, however you are within your rights to do so under the Working Time Regulations (1998) Act, Section 15. To ensure an even spread of annual leave throughout the year, it has been more common this year for employers to force their employees to take accrued annual leave by a certain date. If employers want to enforce annual leave, they must give the employee the statutory notice.

    The statutory notice is twice as long as the period of leave, for example:


    PERIOD OF LEAVE                    NOTICE

    1 week                                          2 weeks

    2 weeks                                       4 weeks


    Annual Leave whilst on furlough

    Since the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, better known as ‘Furlough’, was introduced in March 2020, millions of employees have been placed on the scheme receiving at least 80% pay. Employers are then able to claim 80% of their employee’s salaries back from the government up to a cap of £2,500 a month.

    Some employees have been on furlough since March last year and are still on the scheme now. The scheme has been extended until end of September 2021, which could mean that some employees will have been on furlough for over a year and a half. When an employee is on furlough, they still accrue annual leave as they are still in service to the employer. If an employee were to resign whilst on furlough leave, they may have a lot of holiday pay owing to them which can be costly to your business.

    Again, employers can make furloughed employees use their annual leave. If a furloughed employee is required to use annual leave, the employer must pay them 100% of their salary but can still claim the 80% back from the scheme. This also ensures the spread of holiday pay so you don’t have a financial hit should they resign.

    The same notice applies, and the employer still has to give the employee notice of their annual leave.


    Carrying over annual leave

    Employees are able to carry over annual leave if they have not been able to take it due to coronavirus. This is for employees who have been unable to take annual leave due to cover or have been isolating or too sick to take holiday. Employees who are furloughed and cannot reasonably use their holiday may be able to carry it over, however the employer can still enforce annual leave for furloughed workers.

    If you require any HR support or further advice on this topic, please feel free to give us a call on 01527 571611 where we will be more than happy to help you!

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