Since the Covid-19 pandemic has placed restriction on our lives, many people have decided to avoid taking time off work, while the pressure of home schooling has led to others using annual leave quicker than expected. This creates a series of dilemmas for employers, and it is crucial that employee wellbeing is considered when deciding how to approach them.
For some industries, where key workers have been critical to provide services, organisations have struggled to offer any form of time off to their employees. These factors have all played a part in the increasing amount of annual leave queries that we have received during the past year.
The rules for managing untaken leave
In March 2020, the government announced that workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to Covid-19 will be able to carry days over to the next two leave years.
The new regulations allow up to four weeks of untaken leave to be carried over, placing less pressure on employers to ensure that the correct statutory leave amount is taken in one year.
Whilst this is clearly helpful, particularly for those facing increased workload and staff shortages, some businesses have built up a large backlog of leave owed and are starting to think about how to manage it.
The importance of health and wellbeing
Although the impact of travel restrictions on annual leave is understandable, employers must remember that taking time off work is crucial for employee health and wellbeing. With increases in home working, isolation, and care responsibilities all likely to place a strain on mental health, it is important for employees to switch off from work and refresh themselves on occasion.
Whilst this may not necessarily mean going on holiday, escaping from emails and meetings in any form can deliver significant benefits for an individual. This could involve doing physical exercise, catching up on reading, or completing some DIY, with each activity contributing towards improved morale and productivity in the long run.
For employers facing a backlog of annual leave, it is encouraged that they consider the broader health benefits of taking time off, whilst adopting a pro-active approach to managing it.
Similar advice also applies for employers who have employees with a shortage of leave, as they should adopt flexibility where necessary to protect wellbeing. This means paying attention to individuals that may be overrun by responsibilities such as home schooling, and considering whether they need additional time off later in the year.
It is also important that these employers avoid implementing a one size fits all approach, as individual needs are likely to vary significantly between employees.
Overall, a pro-active managerial approach is essential to ensure that employee and business needs are balanced. Almost one year has passed since the government introduced the new regulations for managing annual leave, so now is a great time for businesses to start evaluating their situation and consider when accumulated leave may be taken.