Holiday entitlement: the rules on giving (and taking) holiday leave

As the economy starts to reopen, how flexible do employers have to be when it comes to giving staff time off? Take a few minutes off yourself to brush up on the facts about employee holiday entitlement.

Rights to holiday entitlement

Almost all workers – including those with zero-hours contracts or irregular-hours contracts – are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday each year. Ideally, this should be taken in the current leave year. Businesses should encourage staff to book and take their paid holiday, spread throughout the year, where possible.

In the context of the pandemic, however, there may be unusual factors to take into account. As a business owner and employer, your number one priority may be to make up for lost time. Conversely, your employees may be desperate for a break. Bearing in mind these different viewpoints, good communication plus a degree of flexibility on both sides will get the best outcome.

Special provisions – carrying holiday entitlement forward

Where it’s not possible for staff to take all the leave they are due during the holiday year because of COVID-19, special provisions are in place to allow them to carry some holiday entitlement forward. Up to four weeks’ statutory paid holiday can be carried over into the next two holiday leave years. When calculating how much holiday can be carried over, you need to give workers the opportunity to take any leave that they can’t carry forward before the end of the leave year. Workers who can’t take annual leave because they are on maternity leave or sick leave, still have the right to carry their annual leave forward.

There is no statutory requirement to give staff notice that they can carry holiday forward if they don’t use it. However, it would be unlawful to prevent workers from taking the holiday leave to which they are entitled. Best practice would suggest telling workers of the need to carry forward, and how much leave this covers.

Holiday leave for staff on furlough

If you have staff on furlough, they can take holiday as normal, with your permission. Their holiday pay must be based on what they would earn if they were working. If that’s higher than their pay while they’re furloughed, it falls to you to make up the difference. Taking holiday does not break the furlough period so you are still able to claim through the furlough scheme for the holiday period.

Can you require staff to take leave?

The answer is yes. Employers can require that certain days are taken as holiday, provided that the correct period of notice is given. If, for example, you want staff to take six days off, they must be notified 12 days in advance.

Similarly, employers can cancel paid holiday time that has been booked. This must also be done within a particular timeframe. If your employee has booked six days holiday, you must tell them you need to cancel it at least six days before the holiday was due to start.

Leave for caring responsibilities

Another area where employees have a right to time off is when they need to look after a dependant in an emergency? However, there is no statutory right to pay, and the amount of time provided must be reasonable, given the situation.

For more information on holiday entitlement or another HR matter, please get in touch. Speak to your RfM advisor or contact RfM Transform HR directly by email.

For more information on holidays and other HR issues, contact our Lead HR Consultant, Diane Johnson

For more information on holidays and other HR issues, contact our Lead HR Consultant, Diane Johnson

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