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An Employer’s Guide: Managing Annual Leave in Summer 2021


With the summer holidays fast approaching, our Employment and HR expert Owen John outline everything you need to know about managing your employees’ annual leave this summer.

Can I prevent my employees from travelling abroad this summer?

Whilst an employer can usually influence when an employee can take annual leave, there is no legal provision which enables an employer to control where an employee can travel during their annual leave.

However, in light of the current situation and the implications of employees being unable to return to the workplace due to quarantine, it may be sensible to implement a policy which encourages employees to communicate their plans to travel abroad in advance. Any policy should also emphasise that employees are expected to adhere to any laws relating to quarantine on their return to the UK and outline how quarantine could affect their pay.

In the absence of a policy, it is often sensible to take a fair and common-sense approach to employees travelling abroad – particularly if the employee is travelling for personal reasons such as a family emergency.

Depending on the role and type of work, consider whether it is possible to allow an employee to work from home during their quarantine period. Another alternative could be to allow the employee to request enough annual leave to cover their holiday and the quarantine period or take unpaid or special leave.

If it is not practicable to accommodate the employee’s request for annual leave for this period, or if they do not have enough annual leave, you are entitled to refuse the annual leave request.

Do I need to pay an employee who is required to quarantine after travelling abroad?

If an employee is able to work remotely during their quarantine, they should be paid as normal.

If an employee is unable to work remotely during their quarantine, they will not be entitled to be paid and they will not be entitled to statutory sick pay unless they are unwell. However, an employer can of course choose to continue to pay their employees if they wish.

Can an employee who is unable to travel abroad cancel their annual leave?

If travel restrictions or flight disruptions prevent employees from going on holiday, they may wish to cancel their annual leave at the last minute.

Unless an employee has a right to cancel their annual leave under their contract of employment, an employer does not have to agree to the cancellation request. However, it may be sensible to take a common-sense approach to approving cancellation requests.

In determining whether to approve the cancellation of annual leave, employers should take into account the needs of the business as well as the employee’s personal circumstances. In doing so, employers may wish to consider the employee’s workload and whether they have a significant amount of annual leave left to take.

Can I force staff to take annual leave?

With continued concerns about Covid-19 and ongoing travel restrictions, it is likely that many employees will have already accrued a substantial amount of untaken annual leave.

If employers are concerned about the impact untaken annual leave may have on the business later in the year, employees should be encouraged to take a portion of their annual leave over the summer months. However, if employees are still reluctant to take their annual leave, employers can exercise their right to require staff to take annual leave on certain dates.

In order to do this, employers must give their employees notice which is double the length of the holiday required to be taken. For example, if an employer requires employees to take a week of annual leave, they must give their employees two weeks’ notice.


Darwin Gray is a commercial law firm based in Cardiff. We are proud of our reputation for using a practical and solution-focused approach when helping our clients.

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