Forced holidays

03 April 2020

Once an employee joins your business, they have the right to paid annual leave which is the legal term for paid holiday time.

This is regardless of whether they’re full, part-time, temporary, or casual staff. They all have the right to annual leave.

How much holiday time they have you should outline in their contract of employment and take care to provide at least the statutory minimum.

However, sometimes your business may feel the need to force members of staff to take their holidays. So, what are the Irish laws about that? Here we explain everything you need to know.

Employee holidays—the basics

Under Irish working time law, the minimum annual leave entitlement is four weeks of paid leave each year. It’s down to your business to decide how you allocate paid leave to your employees.

However, you should also keep in mind the public holidays in Ireland. These are:

  • New Year’s Day.
  • Patrick’s Day.
  • Easter Monday.
  • The first Mondays of May, June, August, and the last Monday in October.
  • Christmas Day.
  • Stephen’s Day.

Your employees are entitled to paid leave on all public holidays. These rights are outlined in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Forced holidays—employment law

So, can you force an employee to take annual leave? Yes—your employees don’t have the right to choose when they take holiday times.

But you shouldn’t have to force them into taking time off. Rather, encourage staff to use up the holidays available to them so they can rest and recuperate.

It’s, after all, important for employees to choose the days they want—as part of a work-life balance, you should respect their decisions.

If an employee is forced to take annual leave it may seem to them overly assertive. That could upset some members of staff.

For example, if they were saving their holiday days for a wedding or other family event—to have that disrupted could harm your professional relationship.

However, it’s still your business’ right to request employees take their holiday days at certain times.

Your business’ annual leave policy

If you want to use forced holiday leave, what sort of approach can your business take?

Section 20 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 states, as the employer, you can decide when your staff take annual leave:

“The times at which annual leave is granted to an employee shall be determined by his or her employer having regard to work requirements and subject:

(a) to the employer taking into account—

(i) the need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities,

(ii) the opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee.”

Remember, annual leave is classed as a health & safety requirement. So it’s your responsibility as a business to make sure your employees take time off.

If your staff aren’t taking annual leave, you can’t claim your employees weren’t requesting any. Legally, you must make sure they do.

Forced annual leave during Christmas

During the winter months, there can be conflicts of interest between employers and employees.

Some businesses want to work hard over Christmas to maximise profits. However, many staff members will want family time—and that generally means taking annual leave.

However, in some industries the opposite occurs. Business can be slow around the Christmas season.

As such, you may not want your entire workforce present when there isn’t much work available.  

So, yes, it’s possible to have forced leave over Christmas to ensure you can maximise your productivity during the winter months.

Forced annual leave—in summary

Can an employee be forced to take annual leave? Yes, it’s within your legal rights as an employer.

However, most businesses allow their employees to choose as and when they take their time off.

It’s up to your business which policy you choose. Your policy should provide employees with some flexibility around when they can take holidays.

But make sure you protect your business by specifying all staff must be available when you’re busiest.

And encourage staff to take holidays when your business is quiet.

Need our help?

If you’d like further complimentary advice from an expert about annual leave, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 1890 252 923.

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