Considerations for managing employees’ annual leave

As we now head into the summer season, Adare Human Resource Management has some advice for employers when managing annual leave requests. It’s worth noting that taking annual leave is important for the health and wellbeing of the employee. It gives them an opportunity to relax and recharge, helping their overall focus and productivity. 

Given the restrictions that we have endured over the past couple of years, it’s not surprising to see so many people heading off on their holiday. In many cases, employees will also have built up holidays that they may not have been able to take due to the health crisis.

Annual leave entitlements in Ireland
All Irish employees, regardless of being full-time, part-time, temporary or casual or the sector in which they work, are entitled to annual leave under the Organisation of Working Time Act. 1997. Under the Act, the employer can determine the timing of an employee’s annual leave, providing the required one month’s notice, taking into consideration the requirements of the organisation and the health and wellbeing of the employee in terms of rest and recreation.
There are a number of ways in which to calculate annual leave: if an employee has worked at least 1,365 hours in a leave year, they are entitled to the maximum of 4 working weeks' paid annual leave. Alternatively, calculate third of a working week for each calendar month in which the employee has worked at least 117 hours. Or, calculate 8% of the hours the employee has worked in the leave year, subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks.
The above is the minimum annual leave entitlement. In many instances, an employer will grant additional annual leave and this should be stated in the Terms and Conditions of Employment.

Remote working
Employees still accrue annual leave in the same way once they are working their normal hours, regardless of where they are working from. It’s worth noting that if your Organisation received any employment support from Government, employees were/ are still working and therefore accrue public holidays as normal and are entitled to their statutory annual leave based on the hours worked.

Forcing or refusing holiday requests
If it becomes apparent that an employee has not taken their leave or have a considerable amount of leave yet to be booked and/or taken, we recommend the employer communicates with the employee to confirm that they should avail of their leave and even offer dates when it will be possible to take time off.
If the employer has communicated with the employees of their annual leave and that they should avail of this leave before year end, but still fail to do so, section 20(1)(b) of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 permits the employer to assign annual leave to employee with at least one months’ notice of same. However, we always advise that employers show some flexibility and work with the employee to find suitable dates to take leave.
Employers can also refuse annual leave requests, and in some instances cancel annual leave, but we recommend that this is a last resort. Again, being flexible is the best approach and employers should take family responsibilities, the employee’s health and wellbeing in terms of rest and recuperation before refusing or cancelling leave.
If employers find that a number of employees have not yet taken their annual leave, it’s important to remind employees of the terms of the annual leave policy, particularly if there are restrictions in carrying over unused leave. Under the current circumstances, employers may well be advised to show some flexibility in helping employees take leave before year end. 

Adare Human Resource Management is a team of expert-led Employment Law, Industrial Relations and best practice Human Resource Management consultants. For more information call (01) 561 3594 email adarechambers@adarehrm.ie.