With some exceptions, it is possible to enforce a policy that provides that annual leave must be taken within the leave year and not allow any carry forward of holidays i.e. a “use it or lose it” policy. Section 20 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides that the employer can generally decide when annual leave must be taken.
Annual leave is a health and safety requirement and the burden is on the employer to ensure that employees take their annual leave. It is not sufficient for an employer to say that the employee never requested holidays. Many employers implement a “use it or lose” policy as a way of ensuring that employees do in fact take their leave.
Of course an employer would be required to allow an employee to carry forward any leave that the employee could not take due to work commitments. Any leave that is carried over with the consent of the employee must be taken within 6 months of the following leave year.
The other exception to bear in mind is that employees on long term sick leave have the right to accrue annual leave. Employees on long-term sick leave can retain annual leave they could not take due to illness for up to 15 months after the end of the year in which it is accrued.
This article first appeared as part of Legal-Island’s employment law update service. Find out more: www.legal-island.ie