The Coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare to many businesses presenting countless challenges. Most companies are struggling to navigate the current circumstances while fighting to remain afloat. The prevailing conditions present unfamiliar frustrations and confusion on how to run businesses. There is also a rising uncertainty on how the pandemic affects annual leave for employees. With workers taking sick leave during the pandemic, businesses are becoming short-staffed, making it impossible for employers to grant employees time off. Besides, some services like food and healthcare products are in high-demand, and annual leave can slow down an organisation.
Many employers worry about denying workers their holiday entitlements and the potential penalties that can arise from that. Luckily, employees can carry over their annual leave to the next year. What are the restrictions for carrying over annual leave during the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us look at ways to handle annual leave during COVID-19 and ensure every employee gets their holiday entitlement.
Can Employees Take Any Annual Leave During the Coronavirus Crisis?
According to the EU Working Time Directive, all workers should get 20 paid holiday days or four weeks, although some companies include statutory and bank holidays in their contract. The holiday entitlements apply to all employees regardless of whether they are on parental or maternity leave, sick leave or statutory leave. That means while they are taking force majeure, carer’s or parental leave, their annual leave will continue to accrue.
How do employers determine the statutory minimum annual leave? Employers calculate the number of holiday days depending on the amount of work. Employees that work for 1,365 hours a year qualify for four working weeks’ holiday. Workers who average at 117 hours a month only receive a third of a working week every month in the leave year. However, part-time workers qualify for annual leave calculated by determining 8% of the full-year work hour, but the holiday should not exceed 20 holiday days.
Employers have the authority to request workers to take a holiday or cancel their annual leave. However, they need to give sufficient notice. Besides, most companies will stipulate in the contract ideal times of the year to take a holiday.
Employees must take time off to rest. Therefore, employers cannot pay workers in place of taking leave. However, in employment termination, employers can pay the holiday days accrued in the past 15 months.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, employers ought to be flexible about holidays. Some employees may request a holiday to take care of family members or can cancel their holidays. Therefore, employers need to discuss with workers the best way to handle the situation.
Rules for Annual and Sick Leave
When an employee is on sick leave, they are still entitled to annual leave. Even if they fall sick during the annual leave, they are entitled to retain their holiday days provided they present a medical certificate from a medical practitioner. During sick leave:
• An employee will continue to accumulate their annual leave entitlement.
• If a worker cannot take annual leave due to illness, the law permits an extended carryover period of 15 months to use the accrued annual leave.
• If an employee resigns without taking the annual leave accrued due to illness, the employee must pay in place of the annual leave.
Annual Leave and Public Holidays
In Ireland, public holidays are not part of the 20-day annual leave entitlement. Therefore, if your employees work on public holidays, they are entitled to an additional leave day or a day’s pay. However, part-time workers do not qualify for a day off or additional pay, mostly if they did not work for 40 hours in the week before the public holiday. Employees who are absent for 26 weeks due to an injury or a lay-off for 13 weeks do not receive payment for bank holidays.
What Are the Rules for Carrying Over an Annual Leave Due to COVID-19?
Unlike the UK, which proposed a carryover of annual leave to two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous rules apply in Ireland. Therefore, unless otherwise specified in the contract, any annual leave accrued in 2020 will carry over up to six months in the next year.
What Happens to Annual Leave During Furlough or Lay-offs Due to Coronavirus?
Coronavirus paralysed many businesses, and they had to lay-off workers during the lockdown period. What happens to annual leave during the lay-off period? Some employers requested their employees to take their annual leave during the lockdown. However, employees who had plans to travel during their annual leave can carry over their leave. Unfortunately, employees can only reclaim the annual leave if the furlough lasts for 13 weeks.
How to Keep Track of Your Employees’ Annual Leave Carryover
Without an efficient tracking system, it can be difficult to monitor employees’ present or absent days. Besides, it can be more challenging to keep track of annual leave requests and days off during bank holidays. Fortunately, Mitrefinch employee self-service module can assist employers in monitoring holiday entitlements. Some of the benefits of using the software include:
• A consistent approach to holiday entitlements improves transparency and fair treatment of all employees. It also ensures the process for booking an annual leave is clear to everyone.
• It minimises disputes that may arise due to booking holidays at the same time. An employer can adequately prepare for employees’ absence before they go on holiday.
• The employer can easily monitor each worker’s annual leave, the carryover figure from the previous years and the number of holiday days the employee plans to take.
• You can calculate the public and bank holiday entitlements for every employee and monitor the holidays’ payment.
• Employers can generate working time directive reports for calculating the average working hours. You can ensure the working hours do not exceed the statutory limit and use the working hours to determine annual leave entitlement.
While the government may influence employers’ decisions on holiday entitlements, it is ultimately the company’s choice to permit carrying over annual leave. The employer can impose a time-frame for using the accrued holiday days.