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Should Staff Be Forced To Use Their Full Annual Holiday Entitlement Without Carrying Any Over?

By Fiona Frudd

The statutory legal holiday entitlement in the UK currently is 28 days, which usually includes the eight Bank Holidays. Excluding those, the legal minimum is 20 days for a full time employee, with part time staff entitled to a pro-rated minimum.

Many employers allow their staff to carry over unused holiday so that they don’t lose out; others think this is a bad idea. Should staff, then, be forced to use their full entitlement without carrying any over? Here are the arguments for and against.

Yes – they should have to take it all /

It’s a touchy concept, advising when employees should take their leave and potentially remove any that isn’t used.  Many companies suggest that making their employees take all of their leave during the 12 month period benefits them, some of the reasons are listed below:

It encourages bad habits /

It ought to be remembered that the annual holiday entitlement is given as a well being issue, if not a health and safety one. If staff have the option to carry over their holidays this can encourage them to not take adequate breaks throughout the year.

Employees have responsibilities /

Everyone knows their holiday allowance and when the holiday years run and it’s up to individuals to schedule and take leave within this period. Some companies essentially use the ‘use it or lose it’ term explaining that employees should have used it when they got the chance.

Makes resignation expensive /

When an employee resigns, most companies compensate for untaken leave, calculated pro-rata to the leaving date. The addition of four, five, six days’ of carry-over can make this final sum far bigger than it ordinarily would be.

Allows better resource planning /

If you know when everyone is taking their leave, it’s far easier to plan for projects and cover any holiday periods.

No – they should be allowed to carry it over /

The majority of companies allow their staff to carry over a certain amount of their holiday entitlement. It is said that 77% of people think that employees should be allowed to roll extra holiday over. Some of the arguments supporting this viewpoint include:

It’s a contractual right /

Staff should be allowed to carry over their holiday as its part of their contractual, legal entitlement and the company could get in trouble for not permitting it, should an employee challenge any refusals.

Exceptional circumstances /

If an employee is planning for a life event (a baby, a wedding, moving house, etc.), then they may require more holiday – and rolling it over is far preferable to taking unpaid leave at a later point.

They couldn’t take their holiday /

If a member of staff can’t take all of their leave because they are on another type of leave (adoption /parental, sickness, etc.), their holiday doesn’t simply disappear; they are still entitled to those days off. This should then be allowed to be carried across to the next holiday year.

Otherwise everyone’s off in December /

If the majority of staff have holiday left then in a blind panic, all staff are likely to book their few remaining days off in the last month of the holiday year, leaving a skeleton of staff to deal with extra work.

It’s just mean /

If a member of staff wanted to carry over their holiday for some reason or another then to say no doesn’t make the business seem very caring which could have wider implications in terms of denting staff morale.

What’s the answer?

Carrying over holiday is a tricky issue, but it’s safe to say it arises as a result of several different, wider factors. It would greatly depend on the individuals role and personal circumstances however its probably a good idea to think about the following:

Examine why employees are not taking their holiday /
One reason why employees might not be taking their holiday is essentially their workload. They may fear returning to hundreds of emails and having to work overtime to catch up. No one’s workload should stop them from taking that necessary break.

Encourage staff to take their holiday /
Don’t wait until the end of the holiday year to check outstanding allowances – line managers should carry out regular checks and remind their staff to take leave in intervals that are fairly spread across the year.

Pose limits to carry-over /
Perhaps restrict the number of days that can be rolled over, or prescribe a date by which they should be taken. Putting some rules in place could prompt some to take more leave, rather than risk losing it.

Think about launching a buy/sell holiday scheme /
These allow employees to sell down their allowance to the statutory minimum or buy more, up to a set limit. The individual would be credited/debited on a pro-rated basis. This would mean that people who struggle to book holiday have fewer days to worry about – this can also serve as an attraction/retention tool.

Communication is key when trying to encourage people to take their leave, whether it’s strictly within the confines of the holiday year or allows for some time to be rolled over. Whatever your decision, though, it’s essential to remember the purpose of holiday: to give your employees a well-earned rest.

Fiona Frudd
Fiona Frudd
Head of Marketing