Coronavirus: your questions answered

06 April 2020

Where do you stand with annual leave and furloughing?

Can I instruct employees to take annual leave if I cannot offer them work?

Under the Working Time Regulations an employer can instruct a worker to take annual leave by giving notice that is at least twice the duration of the leave that must be taken. So if the employer wants the employee to take two weeks’ of annual leave entitlement then it must give the employee four weeks’ notice of this. There is of course nothing to stop employers and employees from agreeing that any given period without work should be treated as annual leave – although the terms of the furlough scheme will reduce the incentive to reach agreements of this sort.

Can I instruct employees to take annual leave while they are on furlough?

Nothing the guidance so-far published by the Government would seem to prevent this. However an employee forced to take annual leave would normally be entitled to be paid in full for that period rather than at the capped figure provided for in the job retention scheme. Therefore their pay would probably need to be topped-up for the annual leave period.

What about if they are off sick or self-isolating?

It is well established that a worker cannot be forced to take annual leave while off sick.

How do I stop too many employees taking what is left of their annual leave later in the year?

The Government has amended the Working Time Regulations to allow employees who have been prevented from taking their basic four-week annual leave entitlement to carry over that leave for up to two years. Where it is not reasonably practicable for employees to take their full entitlement this year, therefore, they will be able to defer their remaining leave to next year. The additional leave of 1.6 weeks must still however be taken in the current holiday year.

The Regulations also make it clear however that the employer can only defer the employee’s request to take annual leave where it has ‘good reason’ to do so. While a rush in demand for leave towards the end of the year may well satisfy this requirement, the employer should make every effort to accommodate requests for leave where possible.


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