What you Need to Know as an Employer About Carrying Over Annual Leave

As an employer you will be aware that you are obliged to give your staff 5.6 weeks annual leave, or the appropriate proportion of that for part-time personnel. You can, of course, offer more than that if you want to offer a really attractive contract and compete with other companies to gain and retain a loyal and motivated team.

More Complicated Aspects

As an entrepreneur who has to cover all bases, you may find the rules on when annual leave can be carried over from one year to another somewhat fuzzy and a level of detail too far - until a situation arises when you need to know.

Did you know that only 1.6 weeks of annual leave can be carried over at your discretion, and written into the employment contract, and why that is the case? This is because that 1.6 weeks has nothing to do with EU rules. It is awarded under UK law which allows it to be carried over.

The other 4 weeks, or 28 days, are awarded under the EU's Working Time Regulations 1998, and they cannot be carried over under normal circumstances. If you offer additional contractual leave, you need to make it clear in the written contact whether you allow this leave to be carried over.

The Out of the Ordinary

Sometimes of course, there are exceptional circumstances why annual leave cannot be taken before the end of the leave year. The most common of these is sickness. If someone develops a serious illness or has an accident that means they have to take sick leave, they may not be able to take their annual leave in time but be in need of it at a later date. In a number of court cases applying EU law, employees have been allowed to take some or all of their EU leave from a previous year.

Other exceptional circumstances can arise because of the nature of the work and whether other staff members are available, as well as the personal circumstances of the personnel concerned. Your policy on carrying over contractual leave in these kind of circumstances should be made clear in your employment contracts, otherwise it will be necessary to have a written agreement signed by yourself and the employee for each individual occasion.

While you have a certain amount of leeway in your policies on taking leave in exceptional circumstances, it is important to know the rules of law. Clearly you would be wise to write all your leave policies into your staff contracts, so that no-one can claim to be unfairly treated and everyone knows where they stand. If you are not sure you have covered everything, your local bookkeepers would be happy to take a look at the draft and give you their opinion.

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