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Annual leave management as lockdown eases

The enforced lockdown and furlough are producing holiday headaches for employers and staff alike as the summer holidays approach.

With domestic holiday bookings going through the roof and foreign travel about to open up, staff may be looking to cram as much holiday time into a short summer window as possible.

An increasing number of employees may wish to book holidays around the same time as each other.

England’s roadmap reads that, if Coronavirus data proves favourable, all restrictions will be lifted no earlier than 21 June 2021. This means that most annual leave bookings may fall towards this period.

Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 working weeks of paid annual leave each year, which works out as 28 days for those who work a five-day week.

What this entitlement means is that employees must have the opportunity to take this amount of annual leave per year as a minimum. However, employers have the flexibility to:

  • refuse annual leave requests
  • decide when leave can or cannot be taken, and
  • how it is taken.

Therefore, employers can enforce the take-up of annual leave now to avoid an influx of requests later in the year. This is because staff do not have a right to take annual leave whenever they wish. They must request leave, and by implication that means employers have the right to turn down requests.

When a company is exercising its right to enforce take-up of annual leave, it must give staff double the length of the enforced leave as notice. For example, if boss wants an employee to take three days’ worth of leave, notice of six days must be given in advance.

Firms are also reminded that annual leave can be taken at the same time as furlough to avoid a bottleneck situation once the scheme ends at the end of September 2021.

However, there may be an argument that this circumvents the point of annual leave in that the employee is already not working so employers are seemingly denying them the ability to take the time as a break.

Furlough has not been described as a period of holiday, as furloughed employees can be called back to work at any time and should not be taken as such.

Instead, enforcing take-up of leave amongst those on furlough should be seen as an opportunity for them to earn their full pay.

This is because, if employees who are registered as being on furlough take a period of annual leave whilst they are still furloughed, they are entitled to a top-up of the Government’s 80 per cent grant to 100 per cent of their wages.

In 2020, the Government introduced a law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to four weeks’ statutory paid holiday into their next two holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of COVID-19.


Reasons for this could include:

  • they’re self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year
  • they’ve had to continue working and could not take paid holiday
  • they may also be able to carry over holiday if they have been on furlough and cannot reasonably use all their holiday in their holiday year.

For help and advice on matters relating to employment law, contact our expert team today.

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