United Kingdom

Huge surge in annual leave requests for the summer raise concerns of holiday leave ‘bottleneck’ for employers

HR are dealing with a surge of annual leave requests following the government’s lockdown easing announcement last month.

Research carried out by HR software provider BrightHR found there has been an ‘eight-fold’ increase in annual leave requests while holiday firms have reported an increase in holiday bookings. And this month, travel firms have reported a ‘surge’ in group holiday bookings for the summer months while one particular firm, Big Cottages have reported a 600 per cent increase for groups of 22.

Under current plans to ease England out of lockdown, all COVID-19 related restrictions including legal limits on social contact are set to be removed from 21st June, although this could change if infection rates rise again.

Jeff Fox principal at Aon said: “HR and employers will have a battle on their hands to ensure that staff are able to take annual leave at a time of their choosing but also to do so in a timely manner. The pandemic has created a bottleneck of annual leave requests from staff wishing to take advantage of their new freedoms after the challenges over the past year.

“This is likely to create a headache for many, as employers will not want huge numbers of their workforce away at the same time. Yet, employers also recognise the importance of annual leave to coincides with the end of lockdown restrictions from a health and wellbeing perspective.”

In previous years, studies have shown that significant numbers of employees were failing to take their full annual leave entitlements. A 2018 survey by Glassdoor for example revealed that two in five (40 per cent) UK employees took just half of their annual leave raising concerns over the ‘always on’ culture and a skewed work-life balance.

But the months of lockdown and air travel corridor closures over the past year may have turned this trend on its head.

During 2020, the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendments) Regulations 2020 was introduced which entitles UK staff who have not been able to take their annual leave entitlements due to the pandemic to carry a proportion of it over for the next two years.

However, Lydia Octon-Burke at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner writing in Lexology last month speculated that the government probably intended for the provision to be used ‘very rarely’: “[Instead] encouraging employers to insist that employees take annual leave during the leave year, not least to support their mental health and avoid burn out,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the Aon 2021 Benefits and Trends Survey identified current trends around annual leave provision. By far the most common basic holiday allowance was 25 days (58 per cent). In addition, 72 per cent said they did not provide higher levels of annual leave based on seniority. For more information, download the 2021 Benefits and Trends Survey here.



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