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How to manage annual leave backlog from expert HR consultants

One of the many complications that the conditions of the pandemic have created for employers is the question of managing annual leave as the world opens up again. While summer 2021 looks like it’s going to be all about the UK for holidays, optimistic Brits are already booking up getaways abroad from the autumn. In fact, Thomas Cook has said 40% of its recent bookings are for October onwards. With many UK businesses already struggling from the impact of recent lockdowns, our HR consultants have looked at the options for coping with mass annual leave requests and the potential backlog that might now exist.

What is the annual leave backlog?

Clearly, 2020 was not a great year for holidays. In recognition of this, the government announced changes to existing rules on holiday carry over in March last year. These rules mean that employees who could not take holiday because it was not ‘reasonably practical’ would be able to carry over up to two weeks holiday over the next two consecutive leave years. This could create some significant complications in business where employees have accumulated a lot of annual leave, especially if there is a rush to take this within the same period of time. So, what are the options for managing it?

  • Update your annual leave policy so that it’s very clear about the entitlement to annual leave and how recent changes have affected this. Make sure your workforce knows what they’re entitled to and when they need to take it.
  • Staff on furlough are still entitled to holiday leave. You can ask your furloughed staff to use up some of their annual leave while on furlough as long as you pay 100% of their normal salary during the time they’re on leave.
  • Encourage employees to take their time off when they can. Communicate with your workforce about the problems that could arise if all annual leave requests are being made during peak periods for the business and ask them to be considerate and flexible.
  • Keep an eye on holiday allowances. In particular, make sure that staff aren’t simply accumulating more without using any of their entitlement. Bring managers in and ask them to speak regularly to staff about booking holidays periodically through the year.
  • Don’t forget the positive impact that a break can have. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the business impact of staff taking holidays and forget how essential these are to wellbeing and performance. One in five people reported symptoms of depression during the pandemic, according to the ONS. Holidays provide time to rest, refresh and connect with loved ones and that can be invaluable for mental health, as well as productivity.
  • Use up your own entitlement. Business owners - especially those running SMEs - need to lead by example when it comes to booking leave. A fifth of small business owners never take any leave at all, according to one study. Set an example for your staff and book your time off in the way that you want them to.


Coronavirus has also caused another big issue when it comes to staff holidays and that is the risk of having to isolate on their return. It is essential you communication with staff about their individual plans, particularly if foreign travel is planned. This allows both you and them to fully understand and appreciate the implications on the return to the UK, as it may include self-isolation and restrictions on their return.

The pandemic has created plenty of challenges for employers but an annual leave backlog doesn’t have to be one of them. If you ant to talk to one of Human Resources consultants don't hesitate to get in touch.

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