Key questions for employers on employees’ holiday
Even as I look forward to a couple of weeks away from work and, yes, an actual aeroplane flight, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be any significant change in travel rules whilst we’re there – it’s taken me long enough to get my head around the current ones! But, as a household who’ve juggled shielding, self-isolation and the torture of home schooling over the last 16 months, Covid-related and other holiday complications are never far from mind.
In fact, the topic of holidays seems to raise more issues for employers in 2021 than normal. I’m going to take a look at some of the key questions here.
Can I push an employee’s holiday entitlement into the next holiday year?
It was fairly unappealing for a staff to take holidays during the lockdowns at the end of last year and the beginning of this. As a result, many employees have significant accrued holiday still to take in the current year. You should encourage staff to plan to take their holiday and the normal rule is that holidays must be taken in the leave year to which they relate. You can’t normally force an employee to carry forward holiday, but there is nothing to stop you agreeing with a member of staff that holiday can be taken in the next holiday year if you both want. On top of that, there are Covid specific rules do allow holidays to be carried over where it wasn’t feasible for an employee to take leave due to the pandemic.
It’s worth remembering that you can’t pay in lieu of untaken holiday unless an employee’s is leaving their job.
Can I require an employee to tell me where they are going on holiday?
Holiday destinations would normally be a matter of casual conversation only but, given the potential requirement to self-isolate on return from some destinations, it may well be reasonable for you to ask for more specific information about where an employee is going. We’re encouraging employers to decide their approach to employees who may be required to self isolate on return from holidays and to communicate that clearly to staff. If employees are able to effectively work from home, you may be willing to agree to a period of holiday in a country where self-isolation on return is required. If working from home is not feasible, you should be clear about whether the employee will be permitted to take additional holiday to cover a period of quarantine, or whether this is treated as unpaid leave or unauthorised absence. Some employers are implementing a policy across the board, to ensure equal treatment irrespective of whether the employee’s work and/or personal circumstances lend themselves to being able to work from home – that approach is fine as long as it’s made clear.
You should also consider what would happen if an employee’s holiday destination changes status whilst they’re away and include this within your policy.
Do I need to allow last minute holiday requests?
Not necessarily, although you’re encouraged to be flexible where you can. Holidays are normally agreed once business need has been taken into account so employers can refuse requests if there won’t be enough cover in the organisation or if it’s too short notice to re-arrange workloads. Equally, if an employee wants to cancel holiday at the last minute, you’re not obliged to agree to those changes. Again, it can be a good idea to agree your approach to these scenarios and communicate it in advance.
What if an employee gets ill (Covid or otherwise) or is required to self-isolate whist they’re meant to be on holiday?
Employees do have the right to cancel holiday and re-take it at a later date (even if that pushes it into the next holiday year) if they’ve been unable to take it due to sickness. So if someone gets ill when they’re meant to be on holiday, that period of leave could be recategorized.
If your member of staff is required to self-isolate, they may wish to reschedule a period of holiday, but that would be a matter for agreement with you (perhaps taking account of whether the employee can work from home during the self-isolation and/or whether there is the chance to take holiday later in the leave year), rather than an entitlement for the employee. Remember that you are under a duty to ensure that you don’t knowingly allow an employee to come to work if they’re meant to be self-isolating – another reason to make enquiries about where they’ve going on holiday.
… now, just need to dust off the suitcase and I’ll be away!