Can furloughed staff take annual leave?


While a holiday may be just a dream for many of those worst affected by the pandemic, the prospect of getting away from the homes we’ve all spent far too much time in is starting to look possible, now that lockdowns are being relaxed both here and overseas.

This year, however, decisions over granting holiday have the potential to create conflict and possibly legal issues, even in a normally harmonious workplace. There will inevitably be questions about how much holiday employees have to take, while bosses desperate to make up for lost productivity might be reluctant to grant breaks to staff who may have just spent three months in their garden.

The quart into a pint pot

It seems obvious to some yet counter-intuitive to others but furloughed staff continue to accrue holiday throughout their furlough period. This applies to both the statutory minimum 5.6 weeks of holiday to which all but the genuinely self-employed are entitled, as well as any additional holiday specified in a contract.

At the same time, taking a holiday away from home has been all but impossible for about three months of this year. The government has eased the pressure slightly by creating a legal right for employees and workers to carry up to four weeks of this year’s holiday entitlement into the next two holiday years, but many will be desperate to get away this summer.

Add in the uncertainty of those who may have expensive holidays already booked, and those who may want to withdraw a holiday request because they cannot travel if their destination is closed or they cannot get a passport in time, and it is clear that this issue has major headache potential for bosses.

Holiday from furlough

One thing that is both straightforward and important to note is that staff who are furloughed can still take holiday, whether long-planned or arranged more recently, in the normal way. However, they should be paid in full for those days they take as leave, and businesses will have to make up the shortfall between their normal wages and the government furlough payment.

Employers can also require employees to take holiday if they need to, whether individual staff are furloughed or not. A common example is bank holidays which are, more often than not, included in the holiday allowance specified in a worker or employee’s contract. To do so, however, bosses should give at least twice as many days’ notice as the duration of the holiday.

This same notice is required if the business needs to cancel leave that an employee has requested though, as always, bosses should both check any particular contractual requirements and discuss the necessity carefully with affected staff.

It’s good to talk

Like almost every other aspect of our lives, the continuing pandemic will inevitably put additional strain on the relationship between businesses and their staff. Trying to resolve the tension between workers desperate for a holiday or with one already booked and their bosses desperate to start recovering from a catastrophic second quarter, will require conversation and compromise.

As always, ACAS is publishing excellent generic advice for employers and their staff on thisClick here and many other aspects of our working lives affected by this coronavirus. However, specific issues are likely to require specific legal advice that ARAG policyholders, whether businesses or individuals, can get by calling our legal advice helpline.

While Covid-19 may force compromise on many holiday plans in one way or another, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to emerge and at least none of us should have run out of leave to take at Christmas.

Authored by ARAG


About ARAG

ARAG UK is a specialist legal insurance provider and is part of the internationally recognised ARAG Group which serves 14 countries worldwide.

Providing several emergency assistance insurance products and an innovative range of Before-the-Event and After-the-Event legal insurance products and services, ARAG UK prides itself on its client-focused approach. This has been recognised by the industry following the results of the Insurance 360 Legal Expenses Insurers Study in which ARAG UK was voted 'best legal insurance provider'. youTalk-insurance sharing ARAG UK insurance news. 

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