Managing annual leave during a pandemic

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

June 23 2020

Like most business leaders, you probably see a spike in holiday requests around July and August and another towards the end of December.

But this year will be different. Because this summer, your employees are in lockdown. They have nowhere to go on holiday.

So, by the time you get back into the workplace, your staff will have accrued weeks of leave, and not have much time to use it…

Here’s what to do to manage annual leave now to make sure you’re not understaffed when you return to work.

Track your staff’s annual leave

The first step to manage annual leave is to track how much holiday your people have already taken and how much they have left to take.

Without this data, it’s very difficult to tell whether staff are taking holiday at a reasonable rate, or whether they’re hoarding annual leave until the end of the year.

There are lots of ways to keep track of staff leave, but the easiest is to use online HR management tools like BrightHR. These let you record, monitor and plan annual leave for all your staff, including those on furlough.

Remember, furloughed staff still accrue annual leave at the same rate as those in work. However, you might want to think twice about how they use it (more on this shortly…)

Encourage staff to take leave

While your employees’ holiday plans might be on hold, it’s still important for them to take time away from work.

Annual leave gives your people downtime to refresh and recover, so you should encourage employees to take time out from work during lockdown. The only exception may be those on furlough.

That’s because, under the Working Time Regulations, you must pay all employees their normal rate of pay during annual leave. As the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme only covers 80% of an employee’s wage, you’ll need to make up the extra 20% whenever staff take holiday.

The rules on annual leave during furlough are complicated, so please contact the Peninsula HR helpline for advice when handling holiday requests from furloughed staff.

Let staff carry leave over

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the government has changed the law around ‘holiday carry over’.

Your staff can now carry over up to four weeks of untaken leave over the next two leave years where it was not reasonably practicable to take it in this leave year. They can also carry over 1.6 weeks into the next leave year with your agreement.

Letting employees carry over leave may make it easier to manage staff as you return to work, particularly for those coming back from furlough.  

However, it does mean that your staff could have a lot of leave to take over the next two years, making it more important than ever to manage how and when employees take holiday.

Enforce leave if you must

The final option to manage annual leave in a way that doesn’t leave you understaffed is to make your employees take holiday at a time convenient to your business.

You have the right to enforce annual leave, although you must give staff double the length of that leave in notice. For example, if you want an employee to take three days’ worth of leave, you need to tell them six days in advance.

Get expert annual leave advice

Running a business during a pandemic isn’t easy, particularly when it comes to managing your staff.

So, for expert advice on holiday, sickness, furlough, or any HR issue, contact your 24/7 Peninsula advice line.

Or, if you’re not yet a Peninsula client, book your free advice call with an HR expert. Click here to claim your advice.

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