The summer holidays are already in sight! And although it is important for employees to (be able to) enjoy holidays, the opportunities to go on leave in the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are limited. This raises questions about taking and withdrawing holidays in the time of corona. Can the employee save up holidays? And do other rules apply during the pandemic?
Statutory and non-statutory holiday
The employee is entitled to the statutory holidays per year of four times the number of the normal working hours per week. This implies that in case the employee works 40 hours per week, the employee is entitled to 20 holidays (160 hours) per year. In addition to the statutory holidays, the employer may grant the employee extra holidays over and above the statutory holidays. This is often stated in the employment contract or in the applicable collective agreement.
Expiration of holidays
Untaken statutory holidays expire six months after the calendar year in which the employee has accrued them. This means that the statutory holidays accrued in 2020 will (in principle) expire on 1 July 2021. The holidays over and above the statutory holidays will expire after five years.
The employer should inform employees about the possible loss of the statutory holidays proactively and in time, if they are not taken in time. In addition, the employee must be given the opportunity to take the statutory holidays. If the employer fails to do so, the statutory holiday days will not expire. Although the possibilities of going on holiday are limited in times of corona, the employee may still be able to take the holidays. Therefore, in principle, the coronavirus does not stand in the way of the expiration of holidays.
In principle, the employer may not force an employee to take holidays. Not even if there is less work available due to the corona-crisis. The main rule is that holidays are taken at the request of the employee. The employment contract or applicable collective agreement may contain different arrangements in this regard. Planning the holiday is in accordance with the wishes of the employee, unless the employer has compelling reasons against this and rejects the request within two weeks. Compelling reasons exist if the holiday leads to a serious disruption of the business operations. An example is the situation in which several employees want to take holidays in the busiest period of the year, where no replacement can be provided.
Changing or cancelling holidays
The employer: the employer is authorised (after consultation with the employee, but without the employee’s consent) to change (reschedule) a holiday that has already been planned if the employer has compelling reasons for doing so. Compelling reasons include, for example, colleagues being absent due to illness or a flood of urgent assignments. If changing/cancelling the holiday results in damage for the employee, such as cancellation costs, this damage must be compensated by the employer. This also applies if the employee agrees to the change/cancellation.
The employee: if the employee wishes to change or withdraw a holiday that has already been planned, for example because a booked trip has been cancelled, he/she must consult the employer. The employer must respond as a ‘good employer’ with regard to this request. If the employer is not affected by the change/withdrawal of the holiday, the employer can be expected to agree to the change/withdrawal. An example is when there is sufficient work available for the employee concerned and the employer is not adversely affected. If there is insufficient work or a replacement has already been arranged, the employer may have an interest in not agreeing to the change/withdrawal.