Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

July 2021

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

As we move towards the end of the COVID restrictions with the much hyped freedom day on 19th July, the debate continues. What debate is that I hear you cry? The one about how much freedom we’re going to have to go on the holiday of our choice of course!

Green for go, red for no, amber for well, you shouldn’t, but you can if you want to chance it. And several other variations depending on whether you can afford the PCR test or can quarantine when you get back. And that’s only talking about leaving or returning to the UK. What about restrictions in the country you want to go to?

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements as Restrictions End

Yet, despite all that,  attention will turn to getting away on holiday. It’s inevitable. And let’s not forget that employees must book the time off from work in the first instance.

So, to state the obvious, there are issues that both employers and employees must consider as we move away from lockdown restrictions and furlough leave etc.

A two-fold issue 

As discussed last year, we may still have a two-fold issue:

  1. Employees still focused on having a holiday this year if they can get away.
  2. Employers having enough resources available to service customers while employees take their holiday entitlement.

The solution may not be straightforward

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that employees will want to save their holiday allowance for when they can travel again. Likewise, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that employers will prefer their employees to take holidays when business is slow. Rather than as it gathers pace again.

Scientists are predicting yet another wave if we’re not careful. Yet there appears to be enough evidence that the vaccination programme and the break between infection and serious illness/deaths points to life getting back to normal in a way not possible this time last year.

Thus, as the job retention scheme comes to an end in September there may still be employers who haven’t managed their staff holiday entitlements through the measures available and will have employees with holiday entitlements they need to use up.

So – what IS the situation with holiday entitlements?

It’s been the case throughout the pandemic, that anyone on furlough leave would continue to accrue holiday and have any holidays already booked credited to them. Though it’s likley there’s been fewer bookings this year than in 2020.

It’s also been the case that employees on furlough leave could still take holiday, but have an entitlement to 100% of their salary in such circumstances. Though it’s not clear how widespread a practice this has been (by employers or employees) in avoiding a build-up of otherwise unused holiday entitlement.

It’s not all about the furlough though

It’s not all about those on furlough leave though. Because employees in work will have been less inclined to book holiday during the pandemic.

Amended government regulations

The Government amended the regulations last year to help address this – Working Time -Coronavirus Amended – Regulations 2020 and this still applies.
The government guidance on this situation already provides for holiday entitlement that employees can’t take in the current leave year. It allows them to carry it over for up to two years.
The idea here was to address employers’ concerns about:

1. A lack of resources or …
2. … from a statutory perspective, a potential failure to ensure employees take the minimum of their holiday allowance under the working time regulations.

Please note, the aim here is to help employers and is not a licence for employees to carry holiday forward. Government guidance places emphasis on taking every opportunity to take leave within the current leave year.

NB: it doesn’t apply to extra contractual holiday over and above the statutory minimum.

Arrangements already in place

Many of you will already have contractual or discretionary arrangements. Arrangements that allow your employees to carry over XX days holiday. And these may continue to be adequate.
If you find that you need to use quieter times of the year – or even what’s left of furlough leave – you have the legal right to ask employees to take holiday.
I say ‘ask’, because that would be the best practice way to achieve this. But it’s your entitlement to place your employees on holiday for a defined period. So long, of course, as you give the employee(s) involved the minimum notice period. This is: double the amount of time you want to place them on holiday for.
So, if you want them to take a full week on holiday you must give two weeks’ notice of the start of that holiday. Likewise, if it only involves part of a week, it’s still twice as much as the number of days involved.
This may not be straightforward if you still have employees on furlough leave. The commercial effect of having to find the extra 30% of salary in July – (40% in August & September) – may not be possible. But the option is there to manage any excess leave that has built up.
There are other issues to consider if you want your employees to take their holiday during furlough leave or beyond.
Go-Legal HR will advise you on all the ins and outs of this situation so get in touch now to find out more.

Government advice on Covid-19 and holiday entitlements as restrictions end

The Gov.UK website guidance provides an outline on the operation of holiday entitlement and pay during the coronavirus, but we’re happy to interpret that for you and advise you as appropriate.
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