As we bid a not-too-fond farewell to 2020, thoughts naturally turn to the year ahead, here’s our look at 2021 in annual leave management and what lies ahead.
To start with the easiest prediction, even if it is a little trite, a lot of things in the business community will be unpredictable this year. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has already seen firms having to work with an-ever changing set of public health regulations, which differ from country to country and even from region to region. There is no reason to expect this to change in the short term, even with mass vaccination campaigns being rolled out. The disruption of fresh outbreaks and lockdowns will be the largest challenge most HR managers or business owners have to face this year.
Continued Home Working
For many employers, especially in the services sector, the easiest way to protect staff from the virus and keep the business running has been to have staff work from home. As we move into a new year this continues to be a good solution for many, indeed in England, there is a legal requirement to have staff work from home unless it is “Not reasonable possible for that person to work, or provide those services from the place where they are living”. Many firms that had not used remote working previously feared that it would lead to lower productivity or difficulties with collaboration. For the large part, these worries have turned out to be either groundless or easily surmountable, with the effect that even some large firms are considering making a permanent move to more flexible work patterns.
If you are having your staff work from home, whether for a duration or on a long-term basis, it’s important to keep tabs on staff holidays and absences. Some employees find it difficult to balance their work and personal obligations, and encouraging them to make use of their leave entitlements, and to report when they are not working because of illness or childcare needs is an important tool in keeping your team firing on all cylinders.
For many businesses that have had to close down during lockdown, or have experienced a fall-off in trade due to the pandemic, the best option has been to place staff on furlough, where the government helps towards the cost of paying those staff while they are not working. The UK government has announced that Britain’s furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021, and it is hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be extended if restrictions on trading are continued beyond Easter. If you have staff on furlough remember that they can apply for paid leave, or you can assign them a period of leave, during this time, but you must follow the proper process for doing this.
Exceptional Carry-over Rules
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it caused, the UK government made a temporary change to the rules on carrying over unused leave. This allows for staff to take four weeks of unused annual leave into the next year, rather than the usual five days. Reports suggest that two-thirds of employees are carrying over leave, whether they haven’t taken leave due to being furloughed or because as key workers there is an “all hands to the pumps” situation at their workplace. It’s possible that if the disruption continues further into the year, this exception to the usual rule could be extended from the current two-year period. Remember though that there is an advantage, both for your business and for employee welfare, in encouraging workers to take leave on a regular basis.
Brexit: Status Quo or a Fresh Approach?
The other big cause of uncertainty for British employers, or those doing business in the UK, is the new relationship between Britain and the EU that came into effect in January. As we wrote about recently on this blog, this means that the UK has more freedom to change various employment regulations, including those covering annual leave entitlements. There has been no rush from the UK government to announce any changes, perhaps because any changes could impact the “level playing field” arrangements of the treaty. However, The Financial The Financial Times recently reported that plans have been discussed for an overhaul of employment rights, to include working time rules and holiday entitlements. Should any changes be announced, we’ll make sure to keep you up-to-date on this blog.
One Point of Certainty
The year ahead in annual leave management may be a story of uncertainty, but one thing you can count on is that LeaveWizard will work to make sure our online annual leave management platform is up-to-date with whatever happens. Offering a simple, online interface for employees and managers, LeaveWizard keeps you in control of sickness, absence, and holiday across your teams, and even helps track working from home. Book your free, no-obligation online demo today, and see how simple leave and absence management should be.