It seems that, on the back of the publicity surrounding Sports Direct, other large employers are facing scrutiny regarding their workplace practices. Worker welfare is something that all employers have a responsibility to maintain and there are legal obligations on employers regarding adequate rest breaks and holidays. 

Recent court decisions have also clarified that workers must not be financially dis-incentivised from taking annual leave. And, where a worker’s hours or pay vary from week to week (including overtime, commission or bonus), these payments need to be taken into account when calculating their rate of pay during annual leave, which may result in them being entitled to a higher sum than might be initially anticipated by their employer. 

Workers are increasingly aware of this development in the law and examples such as this demonstrate that they’re unafraid to exercise their rights (and that employers are not contesting these rights in the courts).

Employers often set out requirements to take annual leave at particular times (e.g. on public holidays) and they may also restrict or prohibit workers from taking leave at particularly busy times (e.g. over the Christmas period). Usually, requirements around fixed periods of leave, or restrictions on them, will be set out in an employee’s contract. 

But, did you know that if you require someone to take particular times or periods as holiday on a more ad hoc basis, you’ll need to give twice the amount of notice of that requirement as the duration of the leave. So for example, if you require someone to take a week off, they must be given two weeks’ notice before that required week of leave commences. 

Whilst workers have the right to request to take leave at particular times, the employer has no obligation to grant that particular request. However, employers must ensure that, at an absolute minimum, 20 days leave (or pro rata equivalent) is taken in any given leave year. So, it would be advisable to periodically review how much leave individuals have taken, and if they have not booked or do not have plans to take leave during permitted times, to give them notice to take leave during a period that is suitable for the employer.

When considering restrictions or prohibitions on taking leave, as well as having clear policies and notices detailing when leave may not be taken, many employers also pay bonuses for full attendance to discourage staff phoning in sick. (There is little point declining annual leave requests if the workforce is simply going to “pull a sickie” to get the time off that they want.)

If you would like some help exploring these issues or to get some advice, why not fill in our contract questionnaire to see how we can help you with these issues. 

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