When the UK government rolled out its Working Time Regulations (WTR) in 1998, it clarified a number of long-standing issues regarding entitlements to leave. One such was the supposed right to ‘roll over’ statutory leave from one year to the next. The WTR stated in black and white that no such right existed, thus putting the onus on employees to take their leave in the year in which it arose. Simples!
But last year’s coronavirus pandemic changed everything…including the WTR. A hasty 2020 amendment upended the anti-rollover stance of the original legislation, allowing employees to ‘carry over’ up to four weeks of annual leave into the next two working years.
That amendment was intended for the benefit of front-line NHS workers and first responders, but in practice it allows anyone to request a rollover – as long as they have not found it “reasonably practicable” to take leave in the year in which it arose.
Savvy HR departments across the country have responded in the obvious fashion, laying down clear, specific deadlines for holiday take up and thus putting themselves ahead in the “reasonable practicability” stakes. But a couple of provisions of the amended WTR and associated legislation still have headache-inducing potential.
HR headaches #1 and #2
The first of these relates to the prevalence of last-minute holiday requests. At the time of writing, overseas holidays remain logistically difficult, and the government is still reviewing its ‘traffic light’ system for risk classification on a three-weekly basis. The upshot of all this is that the upgrading or downgrading of a popular holiday venue is likely to generate a spate of last-minute holiday requests.
UK employers enjoy a degree of protection under such circumstances, because the WTR includes a clause stipulating that employees have to provide twice as much notice of planned leave as the length of their planned period of absence. Nevertheless, you may find it more productive to allow rapid departures this year than to encourage the accumulation of rollover into next. If so, you’ll appreciate the prioritisation functions built into LeavePlanner, which will enable you to maximise productivity despite absences.
The second 2021 HR headache concerns rescheduling requests. While the WTR does not confer any general entitlement to cancel and re-make leave arrangements, EU regulation explicitly allows such rescheduling, in cases either of “illness” or “self-isolation”. Brexit notwithstanding, EU employment law still applies in the UK…and situations of “illness and self-isolation” are of course rather common in the time of COVID-19!
If you’re struggling with these issues, you’ll find that LeavePlanner is a powerful friend. Give us a ring to learn more about how our software can help.