Any untaken annual leave, which could not be granted by management to health service staff due to essential service needs, “cannot be forfeited” and should be carried over to the following annual leave year, according to the HSE National Director of Human Resources.
In a circular to management on 2 February, Ms Anne Marie Hoey noted it was difficult for managers in many settings to facilitate some employees in taking their full annual leave entitlement during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In light of essential service needs during Covid-19, an employer’s normal arrangements for ensuring that employees avail of their full annual leave entitlement within the current leave year, including the application of a maximum limit for carryover of untaken annual leave where applicable in an organisation, should be temporarily waived for those employees who are unable to avail of outstanding annual leave due to the employer’s service requirements,” according to the circular.
“In these circumstances, any untaken annual leave, which could not be granted by management to the employee within the employer’s current annual leave year due to essential service needs cannot be forfeited and should be carried over to the following annual leave year.”
Ms Hoey stated that managers should ensure that a record is maintained of any annual leave that employees are precluded from taking within the current leave year due to service imperatives to ensure that it is carried over in full to the following leave year.
“Managers should engage with their employees and ensure that plans are in place to enable employees to avail of unused annual leave within the following leave year,” she wrote.
The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides that the time at which annual leave is taken is determined by the employer having regard to work requirements.
It is also subject to the employer taking into account the need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities, and the opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee.
Ms Hoey pointed out the legislation provides that the onus is on the employer to ensure that employees avail of their statutory annual leave entitlement in the leave year to which it relates.
In addition to the employer’s legal obligations under the Act, managers are required to monitor annual leave arrangements to ensure that employees avail of their full contractual annual leave entitlement.