Accruing and taking holidays

Newsletter - June 2017

Some rules concerning how paid holidays are accrued have been changed since the Labour Law of 8 August 2016 was adopted. For instance, now employees can take holidays as soon as they are hired.

Holidays taken from time of hire

Previously, an employee who started work on 1 June of Year N could not take holidays until the official start of the holiday-taking period, i.e., 1 June N+1. Now, the employee no longer has to wait for the start of the holiday-taking period and can, therefore, take holiday days as soon as he is hired. In practice, he must still wait until he has accrued holiday entitlements, which accumulate monthly.

This measure does not override a company’s policy concerning the holiday-taking period, the order in which employees take their holidays or the breaking up of holiday entitlements.

Determining the reference period

Now, using an enterprise agreement, or a collective bargaining agreement or industry award, the employer is able to set the reference period for accruing paid holidays by generating a waiver of the traditional reference period that used to start on 1 June N and end on 31 May N+1. It could then be advantageous for the employer to set a reference period based on the calendar year or on the company’s financial year.

Breaking up the holiday period

Each employee is entitled to five (5) weeks of paid holidays in the year. These holidays must be broken up since, unless a waiver is received, the maximum continuous period of holidays that an employee can take is four weeks. The main holiday period – of four weeks – can be broken up at the employer’s initiative, in which case the employee is awarded some additional days of holiday: it is therefore the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the employee can take twelve (12) business days of holidays as a continuous period during the reference period. An enterprise agreement, or a unit agreement or, failing that, an industry award, might set the period during which the continuous period of at least 12 business days is allocated, as well as the rules for breaking up the holiday beyond the twelfth day.

Breaking up the holiday period at the employer’s initiative

It is possible for the employer to insist on breaking up the employee’s holiday period, but then it must have the employee’s written consent. Consequently, the employee is entitled to refuse the break-up and to demand a continuous holiday period of four weeks, i.e., 24 business days. Conversely, this consent is not required where the company closes for paid holidays.

Breaking up the holiday period at the employee’s initiative

The employee may request the break-up, especially in an implicit way, by applying for a holiday period that implies a break-up. Subject to the provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement, the employer may:

– refuse to break up the holiday;
– agree to the break-up outright, effectively agreeing to allocate additional holiday days generated by the break-up;
– agree to break up the holiday by requiring a written statement from the employee explicitly stating that he forfeits his additional holiday days.

We are entirely available if you have any further queries about the issues discussed in this newsletter or about any other accounting, tax, social security or law related topic.

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