5 things all employees want to know about annual leave

Wednesday, 15 May 2019




If you’re a department manager or work in HR, you will often field questions about annual leave. Holiday entitlements and procedures are one of the most asked-about areas during interviews, and the queries don’t stop once staff are on board.

To help you manage these enquiries effectively, we’ve compiled five of the most common questions that potential and current employees ask about paid leave – along with some top tips on how to respond.

1. How much holiday do I get?

Sounds like an obvious place to start, but it’s amazing what a ‘grey area’ leave entitlement can be. While holiday calculations are easy enough for full-time workers doing set hours Monday-Friday, the reality is that you may be dealing with employees on all sorts of contracts.

For example, part-time workers will want to know their pro-rata annual leave entitlement, and this isn’t always outlined in official paperwork. Equally, employees with irregular shift patterns may struggle to understand how much holiday they can take. One common confusion centres round public holiday: do they get time off in lieu if they have to work on these dates?

You may find it handy to produce a ‘cheat sheet’ for all the different types of contract your company offers, stating the exact entitlement for each category. This way, managerial staff can easily refer to an approved document to ensure they answer questions correctly.

Alternatively, you may find it easiest to dispense with entitlements altogether and offer your staff unlimited holiday. This takes away the need for exact calculations, but the repercussions need to be considered carefully – as we discussed in our blog post, should you offer employees unlimited holiday?.

2. How late can I book holiday, and can I carry days over to next year?

Businesses are often bombarded with questions about the practicalities of booking annual leave; when, what, how, where and why. Which is why it pays to put formal procedures in place for requesting and carrying over holiday allocations.

If there’s no minimum notice period for booking time off, you could find yourself short-staffed at the last minute. And as there’s very little time to analyse and approve requests, it’s easy for two important people to book the same days off without other team members realising.

On the flip side, some employees hold onto their annual until the last minute, ending up with more days left to take than is feasible possible at the end of the holiday year. Letting them roll it over can result in their allocation practically doubling overnight; but a ‘use it or lose it’ demand could upset them greatly.

In both these scenarios, clarity is key. Putting clear guidelines in place for taking paid leave is hugely valuable to organisations, as it reduces calendar clashes and disgruntled employees. It’s also beneficial to circulate reminders throughout the year – for instance, sharing guidelines on how much leave can be carried over when you’re nearing the end of the holiday year.

3. What happens to my holiday allocation if I leave the company?

Although businesses would like to retain talented staff forever, most companies accept that turnover is a fact of life. One of the more difficult talking points that comes up when people hand their notice in is what happens to their annual leave entitlement.

It’s important to ensure that all senior staff within your firm understand the protocol in this scenario. The first step is to calculate their pro-rate allocation – so if your holiday year runs January-December and someone is due to leave at the end of May, for example, they are entitled to five months’ worth of the pro rated paid leave.

If staff find themselves with days still in-hand, you are required to pay them for that unused leave. However, some people choose to take those days at the end of their notice period, in order to leave slightly earlier than their contract states.

Pro-rata entitlements work two ways as well; if someone has taken more holiday than their entitlement allows, then they either need to pay you back for that time or you agree to deduct it from their final salary payment. However, you may choose to let them have those extra days with no charge, as a gesture of goodwill.

4. Can I take annual leave if I’m off sick?

While UK workers are entitled to statutory sick pay, some staff members may want to use their paid leave allocation to avoid illness impacting their bank balance.

There are two different scenarios in which this type of request occurs. The first is where someone has a relatively short term illness or injury, such as food poisoning or flu. Your company may offer a certain number of days off each year at full pay, but if they have exceeded this limit, they may not want to end up on statutory sick pay.

The second scenario is where someone is off long-term sick, with a chronic condition or ailment. They may also be struggling financially and using up annual leave gives their income a boost while they are unable to return to work.

As with the other common questions we’ve discussed, clear procedural guidelines are essential to deal with requests effectively. Allowing staff to ‘sub in’ paid leave can actually work to your benefit, as it means they have fewer paid days left to take when they return from illness.

5. Who can be off at the same time as me?

Of all the questions that companies field, this is perhaps the most important. Every business has a different structure, and weaknesses in that structure due to poor annual leave policies can impact quality of work.

Establishing clear policies on who can be off at any point in time prevents costly and embarrassing calendar clashes; nobody likes explaining to clients or customers why something won’t be delivered on time.

The challenge most businesses face is putting these guidelines into practice, as it’s not always easy to see who’s off before holiday requests have been submitted. This is where an online leave management platform is worth its weight in gold, as employees can log onto a read-only view when they are planning time off.

By channelling all leave requests through a central platform, potential clashes are spotted and avoided before people even make their requests, and managerial staff can confidently approve submissions, knowing that they won’t impact overall productivity.

Try WhosOff online leave management software to see how your company can make it quicker, cheaper and simpler to co-ordinate employee holidays.


By Phil Cross

Title: 5 things all employees want to know about annual leave
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