When it comes to annual leave, many employers often find themselves asking: can I make my employees take paid time off?

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is a little more complex.

Forcing your employees to take annual leave can be difficult, creating frustration and conflict if they do not wish to do so.

Additionally, it’s important to note that you must stick to the rules set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998).

However, with the right procedures and preparations, this can be achieved whilst maintaining a positive working relationship.

How can you enforce this?

It is advisable to give the employee a good amount of notice if you are to make them take annual leave.

As a general rule of thumb, this should be at least twice as long as the amount of time you wish them to take.

For example, if you tell your employee that they must take four days’ holiday, you need to give them a minimum of eight days’ notice of this. 

The more notice you give to your employee ahead of time, the more they have to make plans. As a result, staff can get the most out of their time off, and tension can be avoided.

What about company shutdowns?

Some workplaces have periods of the year where all employees take leave because of a decline in work, this often being the case at Christmas and New Year.

If you don’t have staff who can work flexibly, enforced annual leave may be necessary.

When a shutdown period occurs, this should be stated in an employee’s contract as part of a forced leave policy. Or, if this isn’t possible, within documentation such as your company handbook.

If this is the case, clearly outline that this enforced holiday leave forms part of their annual leave entitlement.

Policies and communication

It is vital to have clear written policies on enforced annual leave, as this will help to prevent problems.

Taking all of this into consideration and doing all that you can, the period of enforced leave is more likely to be something everyone can look forward to, and a positive working relationship can be maintained.