Annual Leave During Furlough

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen organisations all over the country develop their ability to react and adapt to change. However, one fact that has remained consistent throughout all the staff retention schemes is this; employees still accrue annual leave whilst in employment – furloughed or not.

Research by Glint has revealed that reports of burnout have doubled from March (2.7%) to April (5.4%) in 2020, and lack of time off is no longer the only explanation for this increase. This research continued to show that employees struggling to balance their personal and professional lives were over 4 times more likely to display signs of burnout. This could potentially be explained by employees blurring their working and living environments while balancing childcare or dependable caring responsibilities.

Annual Leave

Although some employees have noted how days often seem longer when working from home, many others believe they now have enough free time at home, therefore that taking take time off seems futile. While many employers have opted to furlough staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, questions may arise about holiday entitlement and pay now that employees have the time to think about this.

The lockdown and a travel ban have undoubtedly had an affect on employees feeling reluctant to take annual leave, because they are not able to go anywhere during their time off. This may be burdening for employers – in that staff may wait until later in the year (at a time when demand is starting to increase) to request annual leave. In this case, employers may find themselves in circumstances where staff are able to take (or be compensated for) long holidays at a time when their organisation needs them the most.

Employers who wish to avoid this do have the right to restrict holiday requests, however they should note that employees are able to carry holiday over for up to two years. If implemented, these restrictions must also be consistently applied; If employees are treated inconsistently, employers may expose themselves to employment tribunal claims.

The purpose of annual leave is to provide employees with a bank of time to use for rest and recuperation. Employees are given a specific amount of time in correlation to their working hours, those that do not use this time regularly (or stockpile for long periods at a time) may potentially be at risk of burnout or other wellbeing problems.

Staff who are furloughed can request and take their annual leave us usual, if their employer agrees to this. Furloughed staff must get their usual pay in full for any holiday they take - note that this includes bank holidays.

 

What should employers do?

Employers can help protect the wellbeing of their staff by regularly checking in with them to offer encouragement, guidance, and support. Priorities and workloads should be refocused if necessary to encourage staff to operate more healthily and work more effectively. Whilst having discussions about workloads, managers should also assess how their staff are mentally coping with the uncertainty of the pandemic - A little empathy and understanding goes a long way in making employees feel listened to. Staff wellbeing should always be a major factor in discerning how much work and responsibilities an employee should have.

At Amica HR, we advise employers to encourage furloughed staff to take the annual leave that will be accrued during their time on furlough. Pressuring staff into taking all their annual leave while on furlough may incite resentment and ruin team morale. Employers who opt to do this would essentially prevent employees from taking any time off for the rest of the year - which could be construed as acting unreasonable and may result in employment tribunal claims.

To mitigate this, we recommend that employees are encouraged by their managers to take annual leave that is accrued over their furloughed period. This will help employers to manage holiday costs and entitlements in a more practicable way.

If you require support around Annual Leave, or if you want to find out how Amica HR can work in partnership with you to benefit your business, you can contact a member of the team on 01522 370190 or send an email to info@amicahr.co.uk .

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