5 Top Tips for Managing Employee Holidays in 2021

Managing holidays for your team is difficult at the best of times but with COVID and Furlough, managing employee holidays in 2021 is even harder!

So I thought it’s high time to give you some tips on Managing Employee Holidays in 2021 in ways you may not even know about!

But first – just to clarify about carrying over holidays – here’s what you need to know about changes to the Working Time Directive.

Changes to the Working Time Directive and Carrying Over Holidays

Last year, there was a change to the Working Time Directive to help with the ongoing pandemic.  It allows employees to carry over up to 4 weeks of holidays for the next 2 years  These regulations were amended to support employers whose employees have been impacted by the pandemic that has not been reasonably practicable to take.

Now the question is what does reasonably practicable mean? According to the gov.uk website, the rules definitions are

  • Whether the business has faced a significant increase in demand due to coronavirus that would reasonably require the worker to continue to be at work and cannot be met through alternative practical measures

  • The extent to which the business’ workforce is disrupted by the coronavirus and the practical options available to the business to provide temporary cover of essential activities

  • The health of the worker and how soon they need to take a period of rest and relaxation

  • The length of time remaining in the worker’s leave year, to enable the worker to take holiday at a later date within the leave year

  • The extent to which the worker taking leave would impact on wider society’s response to, and recovery from, the coronavirus situation

  • The ability of the remainder of the available workforce to provide cover for the worker going on leave

Now the issue that this is going to cause is that just as business and the economy is getting better all your team need to take holidays.  So what can you do when managing employee holidays in 2021?

1. Review Your Holiday Policy!

One of the best ways to go about managing employee holidays in 2021 is with a Holiday Policy!  If you don’t have a holiday policy then you might want to consider one.  Having one ensures expectations are clear from both the Employers and Employees view.  If you do have one then review it and see if you need to make any changes to it in order to ensure you are managing any carryover holiday.  Things to include in a Holiday Policy would be:

  • How holidays are allocated – e.g., are they on a first-come-first-served basis?
  • Limits of how many people can take holiday off at the same time especially within the same department to ensure you have adequate cover during holidays.
  • Add in any times when the holiday will not be approved so if you are an accountancy firm for example January and April are not a good time because of self-assessment or end of the year.

2. Holidays and Furlough

With regards to Managing Employee Holidays in 2021, we have many questions coming in about whether those on furlough can take holiday… and the answer is yes!

The rules are if you have team members who take holidays whilst they are on furlough you as an employer can claim back as long as you top up the employees pay for that time to 100%.  So that means you could be paying 20% for the holiday rather than 100% so whilst the furlough has been extended make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to use some of these holidays.

3. Paying Out Excess Holidays

When it comes to Managing Employee Holidays in 2021 and excess holidays: The employer must ensure that employees are taking their annual leave and not just replace it with money as there is a legal obligation to ensure employees take time off.

However, if an element of the carried-over holiday could be paid then it would help with reducing the amount you have but that is going to cost money which you may not have.

It is important to know what your holiday liability is per employee.  If an employee leaves your employment, they will be entitled to be paid any untaken leave that has been carried forward plus the amount they have accrued in the current leave year. This may be an important element to consider when Managing Employee Holidays in 2021.

4. Can I Make My Employees Take Holiday?

In a nutshell, the answer is yes but you might want to tread carefully as your employees might not be happy about being forced to take leave.  The rules are for every days holiday you wish an employee to take you must give double the time in the notice.  So if you want an employee to take 1 weeks holiday, you’ll need to give them 2 weeks notice.

What might be better is to look at when you could get your teams to take holidays – such as having a close down at Christmas and let employees know now that they can take 2 weeks holiday for example.  But you do need to plan and talk to your team and give them the opportunity first to book their holidays before you take action. One of the best ways when managing employee holidays in 2021 will be transparency and communication with your team.

5. How Can I Manage my Holidays Better?

So quite a lot of the time I get clients who use excel spreadsheets to manage holidays or have a chart on the wall and employees to have different stickers to see who is off. Wall charts may have worked for 1918’s Spanish Flu pandemic, but when we went into COVID lockdown… well; let’s just say it’s not so practical when it comes to managing employee holidays in 2021!

Using software to manage your holidays will not only give you greater visibility of who is taking holidays but also gives you an audit trail for requests. Since we’re on the subject of Managing Employee Holidays in 2021, and it being the second decade of the 21st Century n’ all… 

Breathe is a great option for businesses with less than 250 employees and they have just included a new feature on usage.  As you can see below, you can check how far you are through your holiday year and what % of the holiday has been booked/taken.  It should be level!

Person Holiday Usage Breathe Kate Underwood HR


I hope you enjoyed my top 5 tips on Managing Employee Holidays in 2021. The important thing is to review who has taken what and remind your team.  You can also find some of my previous blogs on managing holidays including –

How To Calculate Annual Leave For Part-time Employees

Holiday Pay: An Employer’s Guide To Working It Out Correctly

If you could like to discuss Managing Employee Holidays in 2021, or anything else, please get in touch and book a call using the button below.



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