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26 May 2020

Employers can compel employees to take annual leave during furlough


With the furlough scheme now being open to employers until 31 October 2020, employees could be due as much as eight months’ worth of holiday upon their return to work or when their employment ends, unless they take holiday during furlough.


Employers might want employees to take annual leave during furlough for a number of reasons:

  1. To encourage employees to look out for their own wellbeing and health.
  2. To reduce the amount of leave to be taken once work resumes.
  3. To take advantage of the financial assistance via the CJRS in funding annual leave payments.


While at the outset of furlough, there were two schools of thought in the legal community about whether an employer could compel an employee to take holiday during furlough, (our view was that employers could) the Government has now clarified the position (“yes you can” while on furlough) in its published guidance.

Next steps

In practical terms, the notice periods remain the same with employers being required to give double the length of the holiday that the employer wishes the employee to take.

If your original furlough letters did not cover annual leave, or you had previously reserved your position, we recommend that you now write to staff to clarify your approach and encourage (or compel) staff to use their holiday entitlement even if they remain on furlough.

Even if staff are not furloughed, you should still encourage staff to use their holidays to avoid having a large number of requests towards the end of the year. Although staff can carry forward their holidays for two years we would not advise this, but would encourage staff to take their holidays in the year they accrue, whenever possible, for their own wellbeing.

For more information or advice, please do get in touch with Paul Reeves or Charlotte Varela or your usual Stephenson Harwood contact to assist.

We have a dedicated Covid-19 team of employment lawyers keeping up to date on the latest developments and who are available to answer any questions you may have. You can find more information here.



Paul Reeves

Paul Reeves
Head of employment

T:  +44 20 7809 2916 M:  +44 7919 694 135 Email Paul | Vcard Office:  London