Can You Tell Your Staff When They Have to Take Annual Leave?

October 16, 2019

Many people don’t know that employers are able to tell staff when they have to take annual leave. Here’s a look at why you might want to do that, how to go about it, and what you need to know.

We’ve written before on this blog about the benefits of encouraging staff to take up their annual leave entitlement. We’ve also discussed the struggle to make sure employees give enough notice when they want to book holidays. While there is understandably a lot of focus on when employees choose to take time off work, less well-known is that employers can insist that staff take time off at certain times. Why do some companies do this?

Spreading the load.

There are a few reasons why you might want to send staff on holiday at certain times. It may be simply that you want to allocate each employee certain weeks off, to make sure that leave is evenly spread throughout the year, avoiding rushes. Doing this would involve specifying the dates of leave periods, perhaps leaving each team member a small number of days’ allowance for unexpected family events, etc. This way each employee gets their full holiday entitlement without undue strain on the business.

Some days are essential.

For many employers, there are some parts of the year when it is essential that all staff are present, and others where leave can be allowed.  Perhaps the most obvious example of this is schools, where both teachers and other staff need to take their leave during the school holidays so that pupils’ education is not interrupted. Achieving this means allocating those holidays, or parts of them, as school holidays.

The business is shutting down for a while.

Sometimes you will be shutting down your entire workplace, or large parts of it, for a period. The most common example of this is when many firms will close down between Christmas and New Year. When you do this you are allowed to insist that staff take time off as part of their annual leave entitlement.

The idea of a whole workplace closing for a couple of weeks is an old one, particularly for production line facilities, traditionally known as the “factory fortnight”. In some industrial towns in Britain, multiple factories in the same town would take a factory fortnight at the same time, lending the event the feeling of a public holiday.

As well as letting production line staff have their holidays without causing disruption, having certain areas of a business on downtime can allow for other essential tasks. As this shoe manufacturer notes, keeping to the seemingly old-fashioned practice in fact gives them a two-week window to carry out essential maintenance of the factory equipment and facilities.

Sometimes a factory for might be forced on a firm by external factors. Formula 1 teams, for example, are forced to close down their factories and design teams for two weeks each August by the rules of the sport. In other cases, a firm making components for a manufacturer that takes a factory fortnight may have little choice but to follow suit, since they will not be able to deliver the components they make during that time.

What do you need to do?

The most obvious thing to remember if you want to insist that staff take leave at a certain time is to make sure you comply with the law. In the UK, for example, employers must give each employee notice of double the length of time they want them to take off. Put simply if you require them to take a one-week holiday you must tell them about it at least two weeks before it begins. In practical, rather than legal, terms, it will be best to give more notice than this. You should make sure that new starters are fully aware of your policy so that it does not come as a surprise to them.

Making it simple.

Using a well-integrated annual leave management tool, customised for your policies, can make managing this aspect of annual leave simple. LeaveWizard can be calibrated to assign periods of leave to employees, and is location-aware, making sure that each employee will receive the notice they are entitled to. You can experience this, and the many other ways LeaveWizard simplifies annual leave management, by booking your free online demo here.

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