If you’ve just come back from holiday and are feeling chilled and relaxed, you may wonder what headaches have to do with it. Surely holidays are all about rest and relaxation? But some recent client queries have reminded me how stressful holiday entitlement calculations can be for small businesses.Most UK managers know that employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ holiday over the course of the year, which for anybody working five days per week amounts to 28 days – including the 8 public holidays. But for people on part time, flexible or zero hours contracts, calculating holiday entitlement is not so straight forward.Part time or flexible hoursOne client who rang me recently wasn’t sure whether one of his people had enough entitlement left for the amount of holiday she had requested. The employee in question had changed her working hours part way through the holiday year, worked a set number of hours over three days per week including Mondays, but could choose which hours to work each day rather than having set start and finish times. Furthermore, the company’s holiday policy required three days to be reserved from the total holiday entitlement to cover the period between Christmas and New Year when the business was closed. So it was a pretty complicated one to untangle!
I decided that the best way to calculate it would be on the basis of the total number of hours’ holiday entitlement for the period in question, rather than days as I would have done if she worked fixed hours every day. Once my client understood the logic of the calculation he was confident he could deal with future requests himself.Zero hoursThis case reminded me of another client whose employees didn’t have any fixed hours at all, but worked as and when required and completed monthly timesheets. He was not sure how to calculate their holiday accrual at all. I explained that he needed to multiply the total hours actually worked in a month by 12.07%, to give the amount of holiday accrued in that month. It could either be paid in that month’s salary or carried forward, depending on whether they had taken holiday or not. Simple!What about Mondays?Calculation of holiday entitlement can also be challenging when a part time employee does not normally work on Mondays. How do you deal with the fact that most public holidays fall on a Monday? In this case their total entitlement should be calculated on the basis of 5.6 weeks a year (bearing in mind that a “week” in their case will comprise 4 days or fewer) and they should be allowed to take the pro rata equivalent of the 8 public holidays on days when they would normally be at work.Whose decision is it anyway?Finally, I remember an indignant employee complaining that her company had refused a holiday request because somebody else had already booked time off in the same week. “Are they allowed to do that? Isn’t it up to me when I take holiday?” she asked. She was very surprised when I advised her that in fact employers are perfectly entitled to compel their employees to take holiday at certain times and refuse holiday requests at other times. It used to be commonplace for factories to have an annual shut down for two weeks over the summer, and many office based businesses close over the Christmas/New Year period. Employees in finance departments may not be allowed to take holidays around the company’s financial year end, while in seasonal businesses holidays are often severely restricted during the “busy period” – just ask any retail manager if they can take holiday on Boxing Day!
In practice, most companies will try to be as accommodating as they can in respect of holiday requests, but they do have the right to say no, and employees should always get holiday dates approved before making any firm arrangements. The key to avoiding upset is to lay out all the company’s requirements and restrictions very clearly in an Absence from Work Policy and remind employees about it from time to time. That way, neither party will have to resort to headache tablets!
For more information about this or any other HR topic, look at the full range of services available from M Thorne Consulting Limited, your friendly, flexible HR consultancy. Check out mthornehr.co.uk or contact Mara Thorne on firstname.lastname@example.org