Coordinating staff time off should be straightforward, but it can turn into a major admin burden. Many employees have HR questions related to their annual leave allowance – from how much notice they need to provide, to whether they can carry over unused holiday to next year.
To help you manage these enquiries, WhosOff has curated seven of the most-asked questions about employee leave, along with some guidance on how to answer people’s queries:
1. How much annual leave am I entitled to?
Every permanent employee has a statutory leave entitlement. For example, most full-time UK staff working five days a week are entitled to at least 28 days’ paid holiday per year.
Holiday allowances become more complex when staff work part-time, irregular hours or zero hours contracts. In the UK, part-time staff are entitled to a pro-rata statutory leave – for example, anyone that works three days per week is permitted to take a minimum of 16.8 paid days off per year.
If you’re running a shift-based business, UK employees accrue holiday based on how many hours they work. The same applies to people operating irregular hours, like term-time workers. The government’s holiday entitlement calculator can help you to forecast people’s entitlements, based on the number of hours they work in an average week.
Agency workers, casual workers and apprentices are also entitled to statutory paid holiday under UK law. However, self-employed contractors are not. In addition, there are different regulations for any employees based outside the UK, so it’s best to check local regulations if you’re running an international business. Our blog post on the best and worst countries for annual leave provides more information on statutory leave entitlements across the world.
2. Are Bank Holidays included in my annual leave allowance?
There’s no legal requirement for employers to grant staff Bank Holidays – in industries such as hospitality, retail and leisure, they often busy trading periods. As a result, your company can choose whether to include public holidays within your statutory annual leave entitlement, or offer them as additional days off.
It’s worth noting, however, that your Bank Holiday policies must not cause religious discrimination. For instance, any Christian employees may want time off to observe Good Friday and Easter Monday. If you’d like more information on UK public holiday regulations, read our blog post on how businesses can manage Bank Holidays better.
Once again, Bank Holiday dates and legislations vary for international employees. For example, US workers may want to observer federal holidays such as Independence Day (Fourth of July), Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Although there is no mandated vacation allowance for American workers, many US-based businesses permit paid time off for nationally significant events.
3. How much annual leave can I take at once?
Ultimately, it’s up to your business how much time your employees can book off in one consecutive period. Some companies prefer staff to take shorter holidays, as it means less operational disruption. Others require team members to take at least one fortnight-long holiday each calendar year, so people can recharge their batteries. Many financial institutions also recommend a two-week break to firms in the banking sector, as part of fraud prevention policies.
Whatever limit you place on single annual leave bookings, there may be exceptions to this rule. For example, some companies like to offer staff sabbaticals as a reward for loyalty and commitment – but these sabbaticals are only available after a certain length of service.
It’s helpful to outline this type of information in a company annual leave policy, so staff know the rules before they submit holiday requests. If you don’t have one already, download WhosOff’s company annual leave policy template.
4. Who can take holiday at the same time as me?
Often, the major concern with annual leave is not how long employees book off, but who’s taking holiday at the same time. While there’s no hard and fast rule for who can book concurrent leave, it’s important that your business thinks about the consequences of calendar clashes.
Outline any restrictions in your annual leave policy, including:
- How many people in a team/department can book the same days off
- How many senior staff can take holiday at the same time
- Ensuring there is adequate coverage of specialists skills and certifications – for example, confirming someone first aid trained is on-site at all times
It’s important to factor in other forms of absence too, which may impact staffing levels. Our blog post on 5 types of leave your company might not be tracking (but needs to) is a good reminder of the other reasons that team members could be out of office.
5. Can I carry over annual leave?
Like Bank Holidays, carryover is at the discretion of your company. Some organisations like the flexibility it offers, as it stops employees suddenly wanting time off just before their holiday year comes to an end. Others prefer a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to stop staff building up big annual leave entitlements.
Whatever you decide, make sure you include clear guidelines in your company annual leave policy. You might want to place restrictions around carrying over holiday – for example, setting a maximum number of days that can be rolled over, or requiring staff to use their remaining days within the first three months of the next holiday year.
For a deeper dive into this question, read our blog: is carrying over annual leave a good idea?
6. Can I be forced to take my annual leave?
We’ve just touched on the fact that companies can decide not to let employees carry over leave – so staff in some organisations must use all their entitlement by the end of the holiday year. However, employers may not force them to take that leave; people just lose any days they haven’t booked off.
As for the rest of the year, you can legally mandate when staff take time off. However, you must provide two days’ notice for every day you want them to take off. One common practice in the UK is for employers to close the business between Christmas and New Year but make staff use the required number of days from their statutory holiday entitlement.
Some companies don’t want to be prescriptive, so instead they give staff a window of time to take a certain amount of paid leave. For example, businesses using an online holiday planner can check how many days staff have used and ask employees who’ve taken hardly any time off to book more leave within the next two months.
It's also worth noting that employers can outline when staff are NOT allowed to take time off. This helps to avoid understaffing during your busiest trading periods.
7. Can I cancel my annual leave?
Legally, employers are not required to cancel leave if someone wants to change their time off. In practice, whether employees can cancel their annual leave it depends on the circumstances.
For example, unforeseen situations such as a family bereavement can lead to companies granting compassionate leave instead of staff holiday. The employee’s unused leave can be rolled over to a later date. We also saw some firms allowing last-minute holiday changes during summer 2022 in the UK, when flight cancellations affected people’s travel plans.
WhosOff: your complete tool for managing staff leave
The guidance we’ve shared here relates to seven of the most-asked questions about annual leave. Yet, in reality, employees have many more queries about their holiday allowance.
The best way to answer staff holiday enquiries is to set and enforce clear paid time off policies, and to track how much leave each person in your business has used.
An online holiday management tool like WhosOff gives you fingertip access to detailed information on every team member’s holiday allowance – from how much leave they’ve used, to which of their close colleagues have already booked the dates they’ve requested.
Start your free WhosOff trial to see how much simpler staff management becomes with an online holiday planner.
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Posted by Tony Bushell
on Friday, 23rd September 2022
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