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Can you compel staff to take holiday?

Holiday on furlough?

As you will probably be aware, employees still accrue holiday entitlement during furlough and certain holiday rights can now be carried over for up to two years. But can you compel your employees to take accrued holiday during their furlough?

The furlough scheme runs until the 31st October 2020, when a worker is furloughed, they retain all statutory employment rights and continue to accrue holiday. Those who can’t take holiday due to coronavirus have also been given the temporary right to carry over their four weeks statutory holiday that’s granted under the Working Time Directive for up to two years.

This leaves employers with some practical issues that will undoubtedly be challenging to manage. As furlough ends in October, you may have several workers trying to take all of their accrued annual holiday in a short period of time. Or you could have staff who have several additional weeks holiday to take in forthcoming years. Rather than simply waiting for these requests and situations to arise, can you compel staff to take annual leave so that you can reduce accrued holidays and the risk of holidays being carried forward?

The good news is that the government has now updated its guidance and has confirmed that employers can require furloughed staff to take holiday provided they have given them the correct notice. You must first consider whether any restrictions would prevent the worker from enjoying any leisure time. An employee who has to self-isolate could not really enjoy a holiday.

If this is not an issue, your notice must be twice the length of the holiday that you want the employee to take. So, for two weeks holiday you would need to give four weeks notice of those dates. This notice to take holiday should be in writing and you must pay the employee their full rate of holiday pay, not 80% furlough pay.


Providing that an employee is able to rest and enjoy their leisure time, you can compel them to take holiday during furlough. Your notice must be twice the length of the holiday you wish them to take and they are entitled to receive their full rate of holiday pay and not reduced furlough pay.

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