[Staff holidays] How to manage your annual leave backlog

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

October 01 2020

Tough travel rules, rising local lockdowns and new UK restrictions have dashed people’s holiday plans for the rest of 2020. 

But annual leave is a legal right, and your staff might’ve accrued weeks of it during the spring national lockdown.

So, how do you give your workers their statutory time off without risking an empty workplace at the end of the year?

Let’s find out.

Let staff carry over leave

In March, the government changed the laws on holiday entitlement to help workers and employers through the COVID-19 outbreak.

Previously, staff couldn’t carry the first four weeks of their statutory leave into their next leave year. And it was up to you to decide whether you’d let your workforce carry their remaining 1.6 weeks, plus any additional leave, over too.

But now, workers can carry up to four weeks of unused leave over into your next two leave years, where it was not “reasonably practical” to take it in this leave year.

(The government has offered guidance on what a “reasonably practical” situation might look like, such as if your business becomes extremely busy due to coronavirus and you can’t afford for your staff to take time off until next year.)

These new carryover rules give your people more choice on when to take their holiday. And it also means you shouldn’t end up short-staffed, especially through the busy festive season.

Carrying over leave does bring some risks, however.

Your workers might save their entitlement for your busiest periods next year and leave you unable to cope with demand.

And although unlikely, the pandemic could worsen, and you could face an even bigger annual leave backlog than today.

So, you might prefer your staff to take their leave this year. In which case…

Force your staff to take time off

As an employer, you do have the right to make your staff take annual leave at a time that suits you. But there is a catch:

You must give your worker/s a period of notice that’s at least twice as long as the time you want them to take off.

For example, if you want your worker to take a day off, you need to let them know at least two days in advance. A week off would mean at least two weeks’ notice.

Enforcing leave seems like it’d suit your business needs perfectly. But if you do it too often, or without good reason, it’ll crush your staff’s morale and could even impact their work standards.

So, you might want to try another alternative.

Buy back your staff’s annual leave

You could offer to pay your staff full wages for their leftover holiday entitlement so they come to work instead.

However, this is only allowed if your employee has already used or booked their statutory minimum annual leave allowance.

If your staff work a five-day week, they must get at least 28 days’ paid annual leave a year (including bank holidays). This is equal to 5.6 weeks of holiday.

So, you can’t let employees sell holiday entitlement that would take them below this minimum.

But if your staff do have leftover leave they can sell?

It’s best to create a strong policy that sets out your terms and limits the amount of time you’ll buy back, to protect you from costly staff disputes.

Whatever annual leave option you choose, it’s going to be tough to manage your mass of staff holidays and run your business through the rest of the pandemic.

If only there was an easier way…

Use smart holiday management software

The staff holiday planner from BrightHR is the simplest way to manage your staff’s annual leave and get more time to focus on your most important work.

With BrightHR, you get automatic leave entitlement calculations and instant alerts for any clashes—halting holiday chaos before it has a chance to happen.

You also get 24/7 access to your holiday records, so you always know who’s off and when.

Plus, instantly approve or decline staff leave requests anytime, anywhere, with the free BrightHR smartphone app. 

Learn more about why BrightHR is the UK’s most popular HR software for small business owners—speak to an HR adviser today on 0800 028 2420

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