Coronavirus – Staff Annual Leave

There have been many questions asked about the impact of Covid-19 and what happens to staff annual leave, below I talk through some of the issues.
As a direct result of coronavirus and the extensive measures being taken to tackle it, the government last week announced it was allowing workers to carry up to four weeks annual leave into the next two annual leave years. Prior to this announcement, workers could only carry over leave if they were sick and unable to take it in the leave year that it was accrued.

Under The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) regulations 2020, workers will be allowed to carry over leave “where it is not reasonably practicable for them to take some, or all of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus”. The word “reasonably“ is difficult to define and applies where coronavirus has affected the worker, their employer, the wider economy or society.

The Regulations will of course apply to the travel industry, but it would appear that these Regulations are particularly important for businesses and organisations providing products and services in response to coronavirus. Those employers and industries that are supporting the response to coronavirus are likely to need as many staff as possible, but also at the same time have fewer staff because of rules around self-isolation.

In the travel industry, individuals can in most cases “reasonably“ take holiday as usual. There is still a duty of care to look after the health and well being of staff. Indeed, with some staff having to home-school and work from home, some annual leave during the Easter holidays may be a welcome break from working from home.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced the move on 28th March

Once this is all over (and it will be!) the industry will start to pick up, and when staff return to work you may wish to prioritise leave requests for those that have worked through the pandemic.

You may have some staff that already have pre-booked annual leave, who now for various reasons are requesting to cancel that leave, maybe because they cannot go away. As an employer you are not obliged to grant the cancellation request, but you may at your discretion do so. The purpose of annual leave is simply to have a rest from work, which staff will do, even if they cannot go away.

It will probably make sense as a business if the majority of staff take their annual leave now or soon, because when the travel industry does pick up, you will want to have your staff in position and ready to work. Hopefully by the latter part of the year business will start to pick up, and the last thing you want is all your staff coming to you with a years’ worth of accrued, but untaken, leave.

As an employer you may wish to consider this now whilst business is slow, and perhaps suggest that a certain number of holidays must be taken by a particular date. Alternatively, that only a certain number of days leave may be taken after a certain date. However, this strategy also needs to be weighed up against forcing your staff to do this, and therefore it would be sensible to set out the clear business reasons as to why you are doing it.

In respect of staff on furlough, if they are taking holiday, an employer will need to top up salaries, because during any holiday period, they must receive their “normal “pay including overtime and commission etc.

Dealing with holidays during the pandemic is a tricky issue, having to deal with many conflicting issues

If you would like to discuss or have any questions please contact;

ami@travlaw.co.uk

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