In this article, I’m going to answer some of the common questions related to annual leave entitlements.
What exactly does “paid time off” include?
Under Irish legislation paid time off consists of various privileges to leave from work. These include:
Annual Leave – a minimum set number of days per year to take as the employee’s wishes.
Public Holidays – including bank holidays, this totals to nine days off in the year and includes days such as Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and certain days over Easter when most businesses close. Employers should offer a paid day off on the public holiday, an additional day of annual leave, an additional day’s pay or a paid day off within a month of the public holiday.
Maternity Leave – as discussed in a previous article, this leave is for expectant and new mothers who are entitled to 26 weeks state paid leave plus an additional 16 weeks unpaid leave. An employee may qualify for maternity benefit from the Department of Social Protection, and in some cases, a company will offer full pay minus the amount of maternity benefit payable.
Adoptive Leave – this leave is for the adoptive mother who is entitled to 24 weeks state paid leave plus an additional 16 weeks unpaid leave. As with maternity leave, it is at the employer’s discretion if they wish to pay a supplementary salary to the employee.
Jury Service – employees who are called to jury service are entitled to be paid for the time they are absent from work and therefore should not lose any employment entitlements, including annual leave entitlement.
How many days of annual leave is a staff member entitled to?
The basic entitlement of annual leave is 20 days per full time staff member, however there are actually three different methods of calculating employee entitlement:
- Whilst the leave year runs from April to March, a number of businesses use the calendar year of January to December to calculate leave. Any staff member who has worked a minimum of 1365 hours in the annual leave year is eligible for the full annual leave allowance of 4 weeks.
- Employees who work at least 117 hours in the month can be offered 1/3 of a working week off for each calendar month.
- 8% of the hours worked by an employee in the leave year, however there is still a maximum allowance of 4 working weeks. This option is most popular for companies who employ part time workers.
An employer should ensure that all entitlement includes hours worked even when employees are on alternative types of leave, such as maternity, parental, force majeure and adoptive leave. It is also necessary to remember that any employee who has worked for at least 8 months within the one company is entitled to a period of two weeks unbroken annual leave.
How much pay is an employee entitled to when on annual leave?
When an employee is paid a standard monthly salary, they are entitled to be paid at this rate when on leave. However if a staff member’s pay varies due to commission or bonuses, employers must take the average wage from the 13 weeks previous to the annual leave and pay this rate to their employees for the time they are off work.
Can employees take annual leave when they want?
Generally it is up to the employer when their staff can take leave. This is to ensure employees are not out of the office at the same time and negatively affecting productivity. Although the final decision is made by the employer, there are a number of considerations to take into account, such as the employee’s family responsibilities and need for rest. After all, there’s no point having an employee working when they have their mind on other things or are burnt out. Employers should always discuss potential dates for employees to take leave at least one month before it is to be taken.
Can annual leave be carried over or ‘paid out’?
Employers should always try to ensure any staff leave is taken within the appropriate leave year, however if circumstances prevent this from happening then it could be proposed that an employee take their leave within six months of the following leave year. It is always the responsibility of an employer to ensure their staff takes their full statutory entitlement to leave in the appropriate period, and that conversations and discussions take place with an employee well ahead of time if there is potential for the leave not to take place in the year it should.
Paying employees an allowance as a substitute to annual leave entitlement is illegal and therefore should not be offered or agreed to with an employee.
Should employers offer public holiday pay when the employee is on annual leave?
Generally speaking, employers should either offer pay or a day in lieu if a public holiday occurs when an employee is on annual leave. For example, if a member of staff takes 23rd-27th December off and the 25th and 26th December are public holidays, then they are only technically taking two days annual leave.
Can the same be said for sick pay?
There are two elements to annual leave and sick pay:
- If an employee is sick when on annual leave, they are responsible for obtaining a medical certificate from their GP and giving it to their employer when they return to work. This proves they were indeed sick when they were off and are therefore entitled to additional annual leave days at a later date. If an employee does not get a medical certificate, it is at the discretion of the employer whether to offer additional days leave.
- An employer can’t order an employee to take annual leave as an alternative to a period of illness. However, employee illness does affect the amount of leave they are entitled to, as staff members cannot accumulate annual leave when they are on sick leave from work.
Are employees whose contract is terminated entitled to any untaken annual leave pay?
If an employee is leaving the company an employer is responsible for compensating the employee for any outstanding annual leave or public holiday entitlements.
All entitlements I have included above relate to Irish legislation and may differ in the UK or other countries. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to comment below!
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.