But where do you, as the employer, legally stand post-Coronavirus? What are your employees entitled to in terms of carrying over leave from 2020 into 2021? And what is the best approach to managing holiday leave as we continue to tackle this pandemic?
Whether you are struggling to encourage employees to take annual leave while working from home or finding monitoring employees’ travel during time off in line with self-isolation guidelines, let’s explore some top tips for holiday leave post-coronavirus.
Holiday Leave: Employers’ Rights Post-Covid
Workplaces, large and small, all have their own holiday policies. However, as Covid-19 hit the Irish workplace, your HR team has undoubtedly been inundated regarding holiday leave queries. So, what are you entitled to from your employees in terms of their annual leave?
Simply put, it all depends on how your employees have been working over the past few months. Perhaps they have worked from home throughout the pandemic but have used little leave. Maybe you haven’t had the capacity to afford them the time off if you have been working with a skeleton staff. Or perhaps they have been receiving their pay through the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS).
As an employer, it is your role to ensure your colleagues are clear on what their holiday entitlement is. Perhaps as we begin to enter back into offices and structured workplaces, it would be productive to get your HR team to review what holidays each employee has left remaining, remind them of this figure, and encourage them to take breaks.
Understandably, some of your employees may be reluctant to use holiday leave as they may feel they cannot use it to head away overseas. For those employees, it is important to remind them of their rights but also to ensure they are aware of their limitations on carrying over leave, depending on your organisation.
The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 provides that the timing of an employee’s annual leave can be determined by the employer “having regard to work requirements” so this gives employers the right to ask their employees to take annual leave during the emergency period. In relying on this provision, employers are obliged to consult with their employees 30 days before the start of the annual leave. While this may be quite restrictive, it still offers the opportunity to exercise your rights as an employer.
Holiday Leave: Employees’ Rights Post-Covid
Understanding the rights of your employees during this period is also crucial to ensuring you keep staff satisfied and your business’ reputation high.
For those employees that have worked throughout the lockdown, they will be entitled to fully paid holiday leave. For those that have been unable to take leave due to the needs and capacity of your business, now is the time to afford your employees that treasured time off. Not only will it ensure that you keep on the right side of your employees, but it will ensure their rights are met, improving job satisfaction and leaving them refreshed to boost your business performance.
For those employees that you had placed on the WSS, their rights will differ. Employees can only accrue annual leave relevant to the time that they have worked. While those staff will likely have accrued full annual leave entitlement up until the month of March, it is important to make the right calculations for their leave entitlement during their placement on WSS and communicate this to them.
For those employees that you may have unfortunately had to lay-off during this period, it is important to remember that they retain the right to be paid for a public holiday during a lay-off period of up to 13 weeks from the date of lay-off.
Jet-Setting: Employees’ Rights for Overseas Travel
While many of your employees will remain cautious throughout the rest of 2020, some will be itching to throw open the suitcase and jet-off somewhere abroad. While various quarantine rules continue to remain, it is important to acknowledge these in relation to the annual leave entitlement of your employees. While you may have the capacity to grant the initial holiday request, with two more weeks of isolation needed, employees must be notified that they will not be able to receive pay for this additional time off (unless they can take their full quota of minimum holiday entitlement).
Do your staff have a duty to inform you of overseas travel? While opinions may differ, if they make a false declaration and have been overseas but are not self-isolating then this could result in disciplinary action as it would be a serious breach of health and safety legislation and could out the rest of your staff and possibly your customers at risk