How to manage holidays and what to do with outstanding leave

Just like with breaks, an employer is not actually obliged to ensure each of their employees or workers are remembering to take their holidays. Indeed, sometimes we must try and ensure they are not taking too much!


Managing holiday 

An employer only needs to enable staff to take holiday e.g. making sure there is sufficient cover for their absences. Nonetheless, we all have a duty of care toward our teams and taking steps to ensure they get their minimum rest from work is something we can all do easily.

Below are four quick tips to greatly improve the booking and taking of all annual leave in the relevant leave year:

  • Have a clear procedure for requesting and authorising holiday
  • Make the outstanding entitlement readily available to each member of staff so that they can review and plan their leave through the year
  • Consider making a calendar available which details the annual leave that has already been approved for others. This can help staff to choose a period of leave that is more likely to be approved.
  • Set up reminders to go out periodically through the course of the year, reminding them to book in their leave. Perhaps include the amount of annual leave outstanding, when the end of the leave year is and a reminder of your policy for carrying over or losing untaken annual leave.

A few months ahead of the new leave year, have a skim through your records and check who still has holiday leave outstanding. Contact them advising of; the amount of outstanding leave, the length of time they have left in which they must have booked and taken the holiday and what your holiday booking procedure is. You could also advise them of what could happen if they do not take it. Certainly, in respect of the first 4 weeks of statutory leave (pro-rata), this means losing it altogether, without pay.

If you wanted to help the staff member out a bit, you could explain that if you have not heard back by a certain date, then you may allocate holiday for them. Employers are able to do this, provided they give twice as much notice as the amount of holiday they will book in. (Again be careful of making a habit out of this, regular or unreasonable use of this discretion may disgruntle staff and give grounds for complaint. We all like to choose when we are having our jollies!)

Outstanding leave 

If you still get to the end of your leave year and you find out that someone has still not taken their leave, there may be a few things you can do, depending on the reason.

If the individual just did not book them all in:

In this scenario, as unfair as it may seem, I would advise that the employee loses any remaining statutory holiday that they have not booked in.  It should not be paid. There may be scope for 1.6 weeks’ worth of statutory leave to be carried forwards (but not paid) to the following leave year, but this should not be carried forwards for a second year and I would suggest you contact our advisors before doing so. Going forwards, I would consider how this situation came about and whether there are any simple solutions to support them and avoid this happening again.

If any annual leave above the minimum is outstanding, then the employer should consider if there is a custom and practice with respect to carry over and then check if you have a policy that you should adhere to. If there is no practice or policy, then you must think carefully about what to agree with the individual in question, as your actions may set a precedent for the future. If you decide to permit additional holiday to be carried forwards or ‘bought back’ then consider agreeing a date by when they must have taken this, to avoid too much leave entitlement building up.

If the individual tried to take the holiday:

If the employee or worker made numerous attempts to book all of their annual leave, but their requests have been repeatedly refused, there may be a risk that a tribunal could decide the employer obstructed them from taking their leave and has, therefore, breached their statutory right. This is why it is important that holiday requests are only refused with legitimate business reasons, and these are documented for future reference.

If you find yourself in this situation, I would suggest you speak to the member of staff about taking paid time off as soon as possible. Work out a way forwards to prevent a repeat of this situation.

If the individual was on maternity leave, long-term sick, sabbatical etc:

In the instance of maternity leave, the holiday must accrue as normal and be carried forwards even if this means crossing into the next leave year. In the other scenarios I would suggest you seek further advice on a case by case basis. It is possible that holidays may be carried forward with minimal risk for these individuals, but only in exceptional circumstances.



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