Carrying Over Annual Leave


It’s coming to the end of the year and I’m sure everyone is trying to get the last few loose ends tied up in anticipation of the Christmas break and the New Year.                                                                                                   christmas

However this time of year also throws up one of the major administrative headaches that an Company may encounter, and this is regarding annual leave entitlements and people carrying over leave into the following year.

This can be quite onerous for employers as the more people you employ and the more that take over additional annual leave, the more difficult it becomes to manage the process effectively.

Strictly speaking all employees should receive at least 20 working days or four working weeks annual leave in a year. However there are times when it is simply unavoidable due to employee or business circumstances (maternity leave/sick leave/specific projects that need completion) to ensure all employees take their annual leave in the calendar year. In certain cases it may be detrimental to the business to allow persons to take all of their annual leave by the end of the leave year if they have a very short window in which to take this, so the end result is employees having to carry over annual leave.

The other scenario is where an employee just hasn’t used up their annual leave in the leave year and so has days remaining which they must carry over. In the latter case there may be a situation where an employee has been doing this on a regular basis and so year on year there is annual leave being carried over and it can be an administrative nightmare.

An employee’s annual leave is governed by the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, and it specifies that the timing at which the annual leave can be taken shall be determined by the employer having regard to certain requirements. These requirements relate to the opportunities for rest and recreation and taking into account the work life balance. However the legislation also specifies that an employee should take their annual leave entitlement in a leave year and if they do not then within the first six months of the following year.

In cases where an employee is carrying over annual leave, it is important to highlight the time frame in which the additional annual leave should be taken. Some employers are willing to allow up to six months in which to take the additional leave, whereas some require it be taken in the first quarter of the year. Some companies also have a “use it or lose it” approach. It is at the discretion of the employer. However it should be specified in the company’s annual leave policy as to what the situation regarding this will be.

In an effort to address this issue it is important to have a well-structured policy which employees and management alike can refer to with regards to issues like annual leave.

Internally it is also worthwhile to pre-empt such a situation by setting a reminder in the calendar for September or October where you can go and proactively check how many days annual leave are remaining for some staff. This will give you the opportunity to address this matter with staff who have a large amount of days remaining and request that they take these days within the leave year. It will resolve the headache of carry over days and lead to an easier life for those controlling this issue.

If there are employees who are carrying over days and not using them, you could potentially look to give them notice of these days and book them for the employees by giving sufficient notice. This should only be used where the employee is unwilling, despite several requests, to take the annual leave and the company is left with no option but to book the days for the employee.

A well thought out and easily communicated policy will resolve a large amount of issues employees may have with regards to taking leave and carrying over excess days, which in the long run will lead to a more efficient and streamlined process.