Christmas and Furlough
Businesses everywhere are currently utilising the extended furlough scheme, either full or flexible furlough. During furlough the guidance is very clear that employees continue to accrue holidays and that Employees are entitled to take their holidays during furlough leave without it interrupting any periods of furlough.
Employers need to be aware though that Employees are entitled to their normal rate of pay for holidays taken and this should be based on their pre-furlough rate. Therefore, Employers will need to top up the 80% contribution to 100% for any annual leave taken.
As we draw near to Christmas, some businesses will already be planning for their annual Christmas shutdown and may be tempted to try to utilise the furlough scheme to cover a contribution of any holiday pay. Christmas shutdowns however would not be a reason to furlough employees and the guidance is quite clear that you are not permitted to place Employees on furlough purely to take holiday or for any shutdown which is not related to the pandemic.
If however an employee is already on full or flexible furlough due to a downturn in work and there is a planned shutdown or an Employer would like employees to take holiday during the Christmas period because there are excessive amounts of annual leave remaining which if not managed could have a detrimental impact on the business then an Employer can enforce Employees to take annual leave, but Employers should firstly check the contract of employment to ensure they can tell employees when to take annual leave which could include a Christmas shutdown, without breaching the contract.
If there is no contractual arrangement in place and the Employer still wants to enforce annual leave, they can do so as long as Employees are given twice the amount of notice for any annual leave the Employer wants them to take.