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Taking your holiday entitlement

View profile for Hannah Maxwell
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Taking your holiday entitlement

With Christmas and New year celebrations just around the corner, we are sure many are looking forward to 2021 more than might usually be the case. 

For many, the 31st December will mark the end of the current holiday year and what a holiday year it has been; holidays cancelled, and travel disrupted throughout most of 2020 has meant that many employees have been hesitant to use their 2020 holiday allowance or unable to due to work commitments.

 Avoiding the technical reasons why, normally 4 weeks of the minimum holiday entitlement of 5.6 weeks should be taken in the holiday year it accrues and not rolled over. The remaining 1.6 weeks, however, can be carried over from one year to the next. 

This year has been a year like no other and the government passed emergency legislation allowing employees to carry forward up to 4 weeks’ holiday into the following 2 holiday years ‘where in any leave year it was not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of the leave … as a result of the effects of coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)’.

The availability to carry-over will certainly help some (business and individuals alike) but could mean trouble ahead for others; an influx in requests, staffing issues and difficulties keeping track of holiday entitlements, with employers whose holiday year does not end on 31 December still having time to ‘manage’ holiday not just in the interests of the business but the individual. 

Many employers are experiencing increased sickness absence associated with mental health; earlier evenings, working from home practises and furlough arrangements are all contributing to potential loneliness and stress. 

It is more important than ever to encourage or even require employees to take personal time off. Employers should remember they can require holiday to be taken (as well as refuse requests) and many employers are requesting workers to take a proportion of holiday by certain dates and/or requiring them to do so.

Unless agreed otherwise in a contract of employment or collective agreement, an employer can require an individual to take holiday by giving notice which is twice the length of the period of holiday to be taken. 

For example, 2 days holiday requires 4 days’ notice.  This is the case whether workers are working, on furlough or during their notice period. There are some restrictions though. 

For example, notice should not be given to take holiday on what would otherwise be a non-working day. Employers also need to consider, currently, whether there are restrictions affecting workers, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, which prevents the worker ‘resting, relaxing and enjoying leisure time’, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday.

 Under the Extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme employers can currently claim 80% of hours not worked (up to a maximum of £2,500) and this can be used to contribute to holiday pay. However, holidays must be paid at the worker’s normal rate (which might need to be based on an average of the previous 52 working weeks’ pay). 

This means employers will have to top up furlough pay by 20% when a worker is on holiday. Also, employers should not place employees on furlough just for the purpose of the individual (or individuals) concerned to take holiday and benefit from the furlough contribution.


The above is a general statement of the position and specific advice should be sought. If you have any questions relating to anything in this blog, notice to take or holiday during furlough I can help. Please contact me or a member of the employment team on 01206 217 341

June 2021 update - The percentage employers will have to top up holiday pay will depend on what, at the relevant time, can be recovered by the employer under the furlough scheme.