Post-Holiday Blues

Posted in : HR Updates on 8 October 2012
Nicola Shaw
Issues covered:

Nicola Shaw writes:

Well, by the time you are reading this, I will be well through my first day back in work after my long-awaited summer holiday – the first in over two years. Referring back to a previous article, I am delighted to confirm that I did not take my blackberry or my work phone with me (don’t ask – apparently it is cheaper to have two contracts with two different service providers resulting in two hand-held devices for mobile work communications!). Though I will admit that I did text into the office a couple of times; and also e-mailed Scott and Debbie in Legal-Island to let them know not to panic about my missing blog – it was simply a case that the content was still in my head – in the sunshine that was Majorca.

Anyway... back to reality with a bump, as this week is manic – with Graduate Trainee interviews ongoing for Tax, career fairs, dealing with matters that arose whilst I was off, etc. This week I also have my monthly meeting with the Partners where we discuss finance, relations, reward, etc. As part of this, I will be reminding them of our obligations under the Working Time Directive and how annual leave should be managed.

Annual Leave

The statutory requirements under the Working Time Regulations (WTR) entitle workers to paid annual leave of at least 5.6 weeks; of which the first 4 weeks must be taken in the leave year in which it is due. We exceed these requirements as our annual leave and public holiday entitlement take us above this. In addition, our Trainees can also work up time (Time Off In Lieu, TOIL) which they tend to take around their examinations.

In addition, we communicate clearly on how annual leave/public holidays may be impacted by sick absence, when someone is on additional maternity/paternity leave, etc and also the impact that a part-time work pattern will have, etc. We also provide quarterly updates on current leave position to aid planning of leave throughout the leave year. And yet... a lot of our folks just do not want to use their annual leave.

I ensure I use the significant majority of my entitlement, with one or two days spare for emergencies (whether medical, family or duvet day!) so am always a bit shocked when I see people still sitting with 20-odd days leave to take and only 3 months remaining of the leave year.

What Happens with the Remaining Leave Each New Leave Year?

Under the WTR, annual leave cannot be replaced by a payment i.e. people cannot buy-out their holiday allowance. The only exception to this is when someone leaves your employment, when they can receive a pro-rata entitlement for the leave that they have earned, but not yet taken.

For us, we typically facilitate LIMITED buying and selling of annual leave as part of our flexible benefits policy. I am content that this does not breach the due to the parameters around it which safeguards that people must still have an overall entitlement that at least equates to the statutory minimum.

But, we have also had occasions where people have built up a significant leave balance – such as when someone has been off on maternity, or where someone has chosen not to take their leave over the course of a few years – and we have not wiped it from the system at the start of the new leave period.

We have made exceptions in the past where we have facilitated employees’ requests to buy-out their excess leave. But, we are in breach of the law for doing this – despite the fact that the individual has not been prevented from taking their leave; that the individual has requested buying-out their leave; and by doing so, it provides us with the opportunity to manage the potential impact of the significant excessive leave balance.

We have a policy that states that leave in excess of 5 days cannot be carried-forward into the new leave year, but it is not something that has historically been enforced. We appreciate the commitment from our people in delivering exceptional client service and meeting deadlines and we don’t want to “punish” someone who wants to complete the work by then stripping them of the potential to take their hard-earned annual leave at a future point.

We in no way force people not to take leave and only very occasionally may turn down a request to use leave, so how do we manage the situation to ensure that we balance the needs of the WTR with the needs of the business and the want from our employees to take leave?

Final Thought

  • What does your business do to successfully balance this conundrum?
  • Do you have a “use it or lose it” policy that is enforced?
  • How to employees react to this?
This article is correct at 09/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Nicola Shaw

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