This guidance has been prepared to assist in the management of annual leave during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and is in line with national guidance.

It is expected that, where possible, employees will take their annual leave as normal between now and the end of the current leave year. This is important for two reasons:

  • Employees need to take time out to rest and recuperate, particularly during a period where they may be experiencing increased levels of anxiety; and
  • It will be difficult to manage significant numbers of employees cancelling and rescheduling leave or carrying forward large amounts of accrued leave into subsequent leave years.

To help with the management of annual leave, the following should be applied.

Pre booked leave

  • Unless there are any extenuating circumstances, leave approved before COVID-19 should be honoured where possible.
  • If, due to the current situation, employees wish to cancel or amend annual leave, this should be discussed and agreed where appropriate.
  • No employee should be forced to take all their annual leave that was booked prior to the crisis just because it is in the diary. If a planned trip can no longer be taken it would be reasonable to explore the option of the employee cancelling part of their leave but taking an element of leave to ensure that they are taking time to rest. Where possible, you should be flexible in responding to requests to change leave to accommodate changed individual circumstances and service needs.
  • It is recognised that some key workers leave may need to be cancelled to assist with the COVID-19 response but you should try to avoid enforcing the cancellation of leave wherever possible – such employees still need to take a break to remain fresh and effective. It may be that, for example, requests for 2 weeks leave may not be possible at the current time but you should discuss how employees can reasonably take a break taking into account service demands and make sure they are able to schedule longer periods of leave later in the year.

Future leave requests

  • New leave requests should to be considered and approved, wherever possible, subject to service delivery needs. It is important that you ensure that employees are not working for protracted periods without a break.
  • The proportionate use of annual leave across the calendar year can be a health and safety and wellbeing concern. It is good practice to encourage employees, including those working from home or absent for COVID-19 reasons, to use a proportionate amount of leave entitlement during this period where this is possible.
  • To ensure wellbeing, employees should be encouraged to take half of their leave entitlement by the end of August. Managers should be flexible where reasonable periods of leave are already booked for September and October for instance. From a wellbeing perspective, as a minimum, we would anticipate that all employees will have used 10 days by end of August.

Carry over

  • In line with national agreements, services can agree to allow the carry forward of leave of up to 20 days untaken leave (pro rata) into the next 2 leave years (into 2022 leave year). Work is being done to change systems to accommodate this.
  • It is anticipated that this will however only be required in extreme situations and limited to essential/keyworkers where, due to service demand, leave requests have been refused/unable to be accommodated.
  • In other areas it is suggested that the carry forward is limited to 10 days. This recognises the benefits of taking leave on employee wellbeing but also recognises that individuals may wish to delay taking the majority of their leave during full lockdown arrangements.

Holidays abroad/Quarantine periods

Currently employees choosing to go abroad on holiday to certain areas will require to quarantine on return for a 10 day period, although it is recognised that this is an ever changing situation. Where an employee makes a personal decision to go on holiday abroad, they need to consider the implications for their job/work before reaching a decision.

SJC, Craft & CO

Holidays booked before lockdown and employee needs to quarantine on return – what happens?

SJC, Craft and COs who have pre-booked holidays arranged prior to lockdown (23rd March 2020) and who may be required to isolate after travelling abroad - where it's possible and line manager is in agreement, should work from home. Where this is not possible, they should be granted half of their quarantine period as special leave and half as annual/unpaid leave. You should ask them to provide evidence of their booking, showing the date/time that the booking was made. As an alternative to unpaid leave, you should explore the option of working additional hours to make up the lost time. This will be subject to work being available/required.

Holidays booked after Lockdown knowing that quarantine arrangements may be required – what happens?

SJC, Craft and COs who book a holiday after lockdown (23rd March 2020) and who may be required to isolate after travelling abroad - where it’s possible and where line manager is in agreement, should work from home. If working from home is not possible, then they will need to use annual leave or unpaid leave to cover the quarantine period as special leave will not be granted in these circumstances. As an alternative to unpaid leave, you can consider if there are any additional hours or work that could help make up the lost time. This will be subject to work being available/required.

SNCT staff

Holidays booked before lockdown and employee needs to quarantine on return – what happens?

Teachers and Music Instructors who have pre-booked holidays arranged prior to the announcement of quarantine arrangements (22nd May 2020) and who may be required to isolate after travelling abroad, should discuss this situation with their line manager as soon as possible and will be required to work from home, as per the arrangements set out in SNCT 20/76.

Other Associated Professionals covered by the SNCT agreements, not working within schools, will be required to discuss annual leave or quarantine arrangements with their line manager, which may include working from home, annual leave or unpaid leave.

Holidays booked after Lockdown knowing that quarantine arrangements may be required – what happens?

Teachers and Music Instructors who have booked or who book holidays after the announcement of quarantine arrangements (22nd May 2020) and who may be required to isolate after travelling abroad, should discuss this situation with their line manager as soon as possible. Where possible arrangements should be made for working at home during the period of self-isolation. If this is not possible agreement on how the time could be paid back during the school year should take place.

Other Associated Professionals covered by the SNCT agreements, not working within schools, will be required to discuss annual leave or quarantine arrangements with their line manager, which may include working from home, annual leave or unpaid leave.

You should ensure you follow Foreign Commonwealth advice regarding foreign travel.

Future action

  • Managers should review leave taken to date and leave booked and contact employees to discuss and agree what leave can be taken during this period taking into account service delivery requirements and the need for employees to be able to rest and recharge. Personal circumstances need to be taken into account on how best to offer support – for some that will be a break from work, for others taking leave might exacerbate feelings of isolation and may not be the best outcome for that individual. Attention needs to be paid to employees' mental, as well as physical, health needs.
  • Employees should be encouraged to take half of their leave by the end of August. Managers should be flexible where reasonable periods of leave are already booked for September and October for instance. From a wellbeing perspective, as a minimum, we would anticipate that all employees will have used 10 days by end of August.
  • Employees should be reminded of the leave carry over limits and HR will provide regular leave reports to aid these discussions.

Given the changing circumstances to the COVID-19 situation, these arrangements will be kept under regular review.