Handling annual leave entitlements post-pandemic

Last updated: May 19th, 2022

With most businesses reopening in Phase 3 of the Roadmap, life is beginning to return to normal. The return to work for many businesses, however, may bring about its fair share of headaches.

One such headache could be that of excess annual entitlements. As employees have worked through the lockdown and haven’t used their entitlements, you could end up facing a plethora of requests later in the year.

And if these requests and entitlements aren’t handled correctly, they could cause problems down the line…

Workforce planning post-pandemic

Your workdays will be hectic post-pandemic. There will be a lot of readjusting and settling back into the flow of everyday processes. That’s why it’s important to factor annual leave into your workforce planning activities to ensure you have enough staff on hand to get back on track, fast. Not only that, you also need to align your planning with working time rules.

Is annual leave accruing?

When it comes to workforce planning, confirm if annual leave is accruing. If you’ve had to lay-off staff on a temporary basis, these employees won’t accrue annual leave while they’re not working.

However, there will be employees who complete 1,365 hours of work during the leave year despite being laid off. These employees remain entitled to four weeks’ paid annual leave.

Some of your staff may be receiving payment through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. If they’re not working, they don’t accrue statutory annual leave.

The Organisation of Working Time Act

Ireland’s working time legislation entitles all employees to 20 days’ paid annual leave during any given leave year.

Under Section 20 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, businesses, by law, can decide when employees take their annual leave.

In doing so, it’s important to account for work requirements and consider:

  • The need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities.
  • The opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee.

If you intend to refer to Section 20 to ask employees to use their annual leave, consult with the employees in question no later than one month before the start of the proposed period of annual leave.

It goes without saying that, given the current situation, complying with the terms of the legislation (particularly the employee’s right to adequate rest and recreation) could prove difficult. However, Section 20 could nonetheless prove to be a useful statutory right to lean on as part of your workforce planning efforts.

Need our help?

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

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