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Navigating the ins and out of annual leave: Five guidelines you must keep in mind

by , 14 January 2013
Navigating the ins and out of annual leave: Five guidelines you must keep in mindEmployees who work only a few hours a week can make calculating annual leave tricky. It's made even more complicated by public holidays, strike action and forced annual shutdown periods. Use these five guidelines below to get your annual leave calculations right every time.

#1: How to work out how much annual leave your employees are entitled to
Every employee has a 12-month annual leave cycle.
This period starts when they begin employment or complete their prior leave cycle – for example at the start of a new year.
There are three ways to work out how much leave your employee should have in each leave cycle. You must either:

1. Grant your employee at least 21 consecutive days annual leave with full leave pay in each leave cycle. This works out to a minimum of 15 working days and six weekend days (that's three weeks of annual leave).
Note this calculation also applies if your employee works a six-day week.

2. Grant one day's leave for every 17 days worked in the leave cycle.

3. Grant one hour's leave for every 17 hours your employee worked in the leave cycle.
If you work your employee's leave using the last two methods, make sure you reach an agreement with your employee to work out his leave this way
And don't forget, if a public holiday falls on a day your employee's on annual leave (such as Christmas Day or The Day of Goodwill), your employee's entitled to an additional day of annual leave.
#2:  You canʼt pay out your employee instead of granting annual leave
According to Section 20(11) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), you can't pay out your employee instead of him taking annual leave.
This, however, doesn't apply when the employment contract has been terminated. In this case, you must pay out your employee's accrued annual leave regardless of the reason for termination – not only in the case of resignation.
#3: Your employee may not take annual leave in his notice period
According to Section 40(c) of the BCEA, you don't have to grant your employee's leave request if he wants to take leave during his notice period on termination of his employment contract (for example if he resigns and is required to work in a one-month notice period).
#4: There is such a thing as a 'no work, no pay' policy
If an employee takes leave without permission, you can insist on 'no work, no pay' policy. Instead of this coming off your employee's allocated paid annual leave days, the day will have to be taken as unpaid leave and can result in a disciplinary enquiry if you choose to follow this course of action.
This applies not only to days your employee doesn't pitch up for work but also in case where your employee requests leave but you don't authorise it and he takes it anyway.
The 'no work, no pay' policy also applies to employees on a procedural (protected) strike and an unprocedural (unprotected) strike.
#5: You can grant leave according to operational requirements
There may be periods of the year that your company's very busy and other times that it's quieter. If this is the case with your company, include a requirement in your employment contracts that allows your employees to take leave only at times when it's convenient for your business.
For example, the building industry typically comes to a standstill in the last two weeks of the year. If your company relies on builders to get your work done (say you're an architecture firm), the BCEA allows you to instruct your employees to take the bulk of their annual leave during this period.
This also means you can refuse an employee's request to take leave at a different time.
For more great advice on how to deal with labour issues like leave, absenteeism, performance management and much more, sign up to our Labour Bulletin today.  
If you're looking for more information on allocating annual leave, take a look at these articles:
Pay annual leave correctly or you could end up at the CCMA...
Make sure you give your employees the legal amount of leave
When your employees may take their annual leave

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