14 May 2020

Making your employees take holiday (even though they can’t go to Tenerife)

Oliver Tasker Partner & Head of Employment

Far-flung shores and European city breaks are temporarily off the cards – but the issue of annual leave isn’t going anywhere

The Government has effectively told us that summer holidays are cancelled this year, giving both employers and staff a headache.

Many employees may feel they don’t want to take holidays, particularly if they can’t leave the house to enjoy downtime. However, many employers want to avoid a glut of holiday requests rushing in once lockdown is over.

So what do you need to know?

The Government has this week issued guidance on annual leave and coronavirus. It confirms that you can require a worker to take a period of annual leave at a specified time and duration, provided the required amount of notice is given. The required notice is twice the amount of the holiday you’re asking the worker to take.

For example, if you’re needing them to take a week off, then you need to give two weeks’ notice of that fact. No agreement is required from the worker in those circumstances. You only need their agreement in circumstances where you have not given enough prior notice.

How about employees on furlough leave?

Furloughed staff are likely to be the main candidates to be required to take holidays – because they continue to accrue their holiday entitlement during their leave, but you don’t have work for them during this time.

The same principles apply to those on furlough as it does to those who remain at work. The only thing to note is that holiday pay, which includes pay for bank holidays, is payable at the worker’s full rate of salary. While you can currently claim back 80% of this (up to £2,500) from HMRC under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you’d have to top this up to 100% for each day of leave taken. This could be used as a way to give workers a financial incentive to take holiday.

What if you want to avoid staff taking annual leave i.e. key workers?

Well, in response to COVID-19, emergency legislation has been passed which allows workers to carry forward up to four weeks of annual leave for a period of two years if they’ve been unable to take their full entitlement due to the virus.

This should not affect furloughed workers: they have ample opportunity to take holiday during their leave. It’s only for those businesses which have seen a significant need for labour during the pandemic and have required staff to work as much as possible, or those workers who’ve had to shield for a significant period of time in line with public health guidance.

As the government advises people to return to work – and following the extension of the furlough scheme until October – this is an issue facing the vast majority of employers. But you don’t have to grapple with this alone.

Just ask

We're here to help. If you have any questions on the above, contact our solicitor Tom Martin on tom.martin@wilkinchapman.co.uk or call him on 01522 515 007.

Need Help?

Contact Oliver to discuss this further.

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