As the holiday season approaches, employers may face tough calls when it comes to annual leave. Understanding what you can do as an employer over holidays and the job support scheme is going to be key to balancing using built-up holiday allowance with your employee’s requests for time off and the staffing needs of the business.
Holidays and the job support scheme
Right now, you can tell your staff to take their holiday while they are on flexi-furlough. However, they are entitled to full pay for this time. And it will stop your staff building up too much annual leave that they end up taking large chunks of time off later down the line.
“Ensuring staff draw down their annual leave during periods of working reduced hours (known as ‘short-time working’) will be key in managing staff costs, availability and morale over the holiday season,” explains HR Adviser, Anastacia Knight, “particularly given the increased pressures faced by businesses this year.
“While the relationship between annual leave and the new job support scheme is not yet clear, it is assumed it will operate similarly to the flexi-furlough scheme. Further guidance is anticipated by the end of October.”
The new job support scheme is due to begin on 1 November 2020 and replaces the existing flexi-furlough scheme.
Annual Leave and Christmas
Christmas time will always put pressure on businesses with extra holiday requests, and this year will be no different. There will be companies who find putting in place set holiday dates works for them. Some businesses may be able to have a mini-shutdown over the period.
There are industries which have a natural ebb during Christmas, where this is entirely possible. However, many businesses see their busiest period during December and will want to capitalise on it this year, especially if they saw a downturn during the lockdown.
In this situation, you may want to tell your staff that they cannot make holiday requests over specific dates. This ensures your busiest periods are appropriately staffed, reduces the risk of disputes and saves unhappy staff feeling upset about holidays and the job support scheme if they are unable to have time off that they request.
You can allow up to four weeks of holiday allowance to roll over into the next two years. This is for staff who have been reasonably prevented from taking it as a result of the pandemic and means you can avoid the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.
Trying to make staff use their holiday by a certain date or they risk losing it will put you at risk of disputes. If you have staff who have accrued lots of annual leave which may risk your being understaffed, ask them to plan how they will use the time, spread over this longer period.
Balancing the workforce
Carefully balancing the needs of your workforce against your business needs is going to be extra difficult this year. You may have staff who want to spend the time with young children as well as those who want to take time off for religious celebrations.
Be careful as to how you prioritise requests as you may place yourself at risk of discrimination and potential exposure to costly employment tribunal claims.
Taking mental health into account
You and your staff have been through a year like no other. Even staff who have been furloughed throughout the summer will have felt the stresses and strains. Possibly even worrying about redundancy.
Making sure your staff take a holiday is essential for their mental health so that when they return to work, they feel refreshed and productive. Depending on your industry, staff may end up overworking to try to keep their job secure. This can put them off taking a holiday when they may need it.
Caring for your staff’s mental health will reduce sick days, retain your talent and help you develop happy and productive employees.
Update your contracts
The best thing you can do to avoid disputes over holidays is to update your contracts. Making sure you have a contract in place that can cover all the changes that are still to come will help keep your business healthy through the holiday period and beyond.
For more information on how we can help with HR support, get in touch.