As the summer holiday season begins, many people will likely have leave booked to go abroad or enjoy a staycation in the UK. But in light of recent events, members of your team may have to change their plans and request to cancel pre-booked periods of leave.

As an employer you may want staff – including those on furlough – to take annual leave now to ensure they get the break they need. This will also avoid holiday being stored up and creating a problem later in the year.

When managing staff holiday requests, there are several things you should bear in mind:

Follow the correct process

If you intend to ask staff – including those on furlough – to take holiday days, you must follow the correct process. This includes giving the employee notice of double the number of days they are being asked to take (so if you are asking them to take a week, they must be given two weeks’ notice). You might think about using a quota system, for example requiring staff to take 75% of their leave by September. Just remember to communicate your holiday policy clearly and to be fair and consistent in applying it.

Take a fair approach for requests

Businesses which expect high demand for their products or services and want to avoid staff taking too much holiday during the summer should apply a fair and consistent approach to accepting and refusing holiday requests. It’s a good idea to talk about any plans to use or cancel holiday as soon as possible, listen to any concerns from staff and welcome and suggest ideas for other options. New legislation introduced to allow for 20 days of holiday to be carried over into the next two leave years will hopefully help ease the stress of businesses which have been busier than normal.

Furloughed workers

You may want staff to take statutory leave during the summer to avoid too much being stored up and taken later in the year. For furloughed workers, this means taking it now before they return to work. If they agree to this, holiday dates need to be agreed in advance (including any bank holidays to be taken as leave), and full salary paid for the holiday dates. You can then claim back 80% (or 70% in September and 60% in October) from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Refusing holiday requests

Holiday requests can be refused by giving the normal notice, which is as much notice of a refusal as the amount of leave requested (so two weeks’ notice if the employee has asked for two weeks off). Workers should be paid their usual full amount while on holiday, so annual leave during furlough can also be denied if you find you can’t afford the cost of topping up to the usual salary.

If flights are cancelled or an employee wants to move their trip to next year, you do not have to agree to a request to cancel or postpone the dates, but try to be flexible and take into account the employee’s personal circumstances as well as the business’ needs when making your decision.

As with all aspects of people management, employers and managers should maintain open communications with staff, including updates on how they will be able to take their leave.

For further guidance on holiday and annual leave, see our factsheet here. Guidance on staff holidays is also included in Reality HR RESET – a free resource designed to help businesses in emerging from lockdown and planning for the future. You can download it here.