Can annual leave be taken during furlough?Posted in : First Tuesday Q&A NI on 5 May 2020
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) guidance, as updated on 17 April 2020, confirms that workers can take annual leave during furlough. However, annual leave taken during furlough leave should be paid at the worker’s “normal” rate of remuneration i.e. not the reduced 80% rate under the CJRS.
Some employers may want their employees to take annual leave during furlough to reduce the amount of annual leave that employees may wish to take when lockdown ends, and normality begins to return. It is permissible for employers to ask employees to take annual leave provided that employees are given at least twice as many days’ notice as the amount of leave that they are being asked to take. For example, if an employer plans to close for five days and asks its workforce to use annual leave during this period, the workforce must be given 10 days’ notice.
In contrast, employers can also request their employees to defer taking annual leave. This may arise in situations where employers are not topping up the 80% furlough pay. As stated above, employees would be entitled to receive their usual holiday pay based on their normal remuneration, not the 80% under the CJRS, and employers may not want to pay the additional amount in the present climate.
It is also important to note that on 24 April 2020, the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 came into force and amend the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 to permit annual leave that could not be taken as a result of Coronavirus to be carried into the following two leave years. However, please note that carry over is limited to the 20-day entitlement (pro-rated for part time workers) under the Working Time Directive.
As the CJRS guidance has been amended several times along with new COVID-19 legislation being introduced, it may be prudent to obtain specific legal advice if you have a query about carry-over of annual leave or taking holiday during furlough leave.
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