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Managing Festive Annual Leave



The challenges of festive leave …

There are numerous challenges to overcome when managing annual leave over the Christmas and New Year period, especially if your annual leave year runs from January to December.

Christmas often means an unprecedented number of annual leave requests, so we’ve devised some helpful guidance to help you prepare for the festive season.


Managing annual leave

Christmas may be your busiest time of year, and if so it’s important to plan ahead. Talk to staff to ensure they are booking their annual leave at regular intervals through the year. Whether you have a self-service system for requesting leave, paper forms or a central spreadsheet, managers should monitor how many annual leave days staff have left to take, and encourage staff to book leave that’s not used.


Carrying over annual leave into future leave years

The 5.6 weeks (28 days for a full-time staff member) of statutory holiday is divided into 4 weeks and 1.6 weeks. There are different rules that apply:

  • The 1.6 weeks can be carried forward into the following leave year if a written agreement exists between the worker and the employer in their leave policy

  • Generally, the four weeks cannot be carried into future leave years, so employers must facilitate these weeks being taken within the relevant leave year

Some workers may have contracts that give them additional paid annual leave in excess of the 5.6 weeks. The 4 weeks that cannot be carried over into future leave years still applies.

There are some circumstances when employers must allow the four weeks to be carried over into the next leave year. This is when a worker cannot take annual leave due to sickness or family leave for example. These rights are not impacted by a worker having been on furlough.


New legislation on carry over in response to Covid-19

Last year, the Government passed new emergency legislation to ensure businesses have the flexibility to respond to the pandemic and to protect workers from losing their statutory holiday entitlement (The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020) should they wish to.

This is still in effect, meaning workers may be able to carry forward annual leave where the impact of Covid-19 means that it has not been ‘reasonably practicable’ for staff to take some or all of the four weeks’ leave. The untaken amount may be carried forward into the two following annual leave years if your employer has agreed this. It is important that when an employer is calculating how much annual leave a worker can carry over, they give the worker the opportunity to take any leave they cannot carry forward before the end of the holiday year.

Employers must still try to allow the worker to take as much leave in the year in which it relates and provide the opportunity for staff to take annual leave as soon as possible in the following annual leave year once it has been carried over.


The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 – what is reasonably practicable?

The new legislation sets out factors that an employer must consider when deciding whether it was ‘not reasonably practicable’ for a worker to take annual leave as a result of Covid-19 and can therefore carry it over into future leave years. The factors to consider are:

  • Whether the business has faced a significant increase in demand due to coronavirus that would reasonably require the worker to continue to be at work and cannot be met through alternative practical measures

  • The extent to which the business’ workforce is disrupted by the coronavirus and the practical options available to the business to provide temporary cover of essential activities

  • The health of the worker and how soon they need to take a period of rest and relaxation

  • The length of time remaining in the worker’s leave year, to enable the worker to take holiday at a later date within the leave year

  • The extent to which the worker taking leave would impact on wider society’s response to, and recovery from, the coronavirus situation

  • The ability of the remainder of the available workforce to provide cover for the worker going on leave


Do employees have the right to take annual leave over Christmas?

  • Unless a contract of employment states anything different, an annual leave request is exactly that – ‘a request.’

  • Some businesses traditionally see extra demand for their products and services over the festive period. Some businesses maybe trying to recoup income this year after the lockdowns enforced in the UK. Other organisations may be happy to have staff off work during a naturally quieter period of the year. Either way, employers are legally entitled to restrict when staff take annual leave. It’s important to ensure all workers are aware of your leave policy, especially expectations over the Christmas period.


Can an employer insist that staff take annual leave over a specific period of set days?

  • Employers can instruct staff that they need to book leave at specific times of the year, which is not uncommon between Christmas and New Year dates. Ideally you will have given staff a heads up at the beginning of the holiday year, with specific dates communicated well in advance. Without prior notice, staff may not have sufficient leave left to take the time off as paid leave.

  • As a minimum, employers must give double the notice in comparison with the days required, so if you’re asking staff to book 5 working days holiday, employers should be providing at least 10 working days’ notice.


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