The impact of the pandemic has been acute, yet many companies have managed to keep their heads above water and their staff onside during uncertain times. Furlough has made that possible, but that status has raised some questions over employee leave entitlements.
The confusion is understandable. After all, the furlough scheme, which has been extended to April next year, is a kind of employment limbo, where individuals have no work to do but are not unemployed. So, for those placed on furlough leave, there is general uncertainty over such important things as annual leave entitlements.
For employers, there may be a willingness to come to arrangements with employees they have placed on furlough, but there may still be a lack of clarity over how entitlements have been affected by the new – and largely temporary – legislation introduced to cover the furlough question.
So, what are the key issues to consider when it comes to annual leave and furloughed employees? Well, there are some specific questions that need to be answered.
- Must Furloughed Employees Take Their Holiday?
It’s not obligatory, but there are conditions to take note of. It’s not unusual for employers to require their employees to take whatever remaining annual leave he or she might have, and even under furlough employers can require workers to take them.
If the employee refuses, then the employer can cancel it. However, only if the employer gives sufficient notice to the worker – and there clearly set notice periods to adhere to:
- twice the length of the holiday if the employer wants the employee to take their holidays on specific dates.
- the length of the planned holiday if the employer wishes to cancel a worker’s holiday or require the worker not to take holiday on specific dates.
Basically, if an employer wants to cancel a worker’s week-long holiday, they would have to give notice at least 1 week and 1 day before the first day of the planned holiday.
Of course, less notice is fine if the employee is happy to agree.
The quick answer is: Yes. Emergency legislation has been introduced allowing for employee leave of up to 4 weeks to be carried over. However, there are some caveats:
- Carry over only applies where the leave was ‘not reasonably practicable to take’ due to the coronavirus.
- Being ‘unpractical’ can be from the perspective of the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society.
- Carried-over leave must be taken within the two leave years immediately following the leave year it was due. So, leave due in can be spread over 2021 and 2022.
This is less simple to explain. Furlough leave may not be possible, depending on the holiday year vs the furlough leave period or if the employee was ill rather than furloughed. So, it’s important to approach the issue on a case-by-case basis.
Not at all. An employee can simultaneously be furloughed and stay on maternity leave. This also stands for other family leave entitlements, like paternity, shared paternity and adoption.
No. A furloughed employee can continue to receive all of the non-discretionary benefits their contract entitles them to, and that includes accrued annual leave. So, they get the normal 5.6 weeks holiday per annum and minimum pension contributions.
This stands for almost all workers, including those on zero-hour or irregular hours contracts. Self-employed contractors, however, are not.
Where employees have contracts entitling them to additional paid holidays, an agreement can be reached so long as it does not go below the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks.
Employees are entitled to their usual number of holidays. So, even if an employee is on sick leave, maternity leave or any other statutory leave, he or she can still ask for holidays at the same time as they are on sick leave.
However, it’s also important to note that employees cannot be required by their employer to take holiday leave while off sick.
For more information on how furlough affects, visit the UK Government’s official website
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