The pandemic has forced businesses to reconsider managing employees, many of whom are now working from home. Leave rules during lockdown, and post lockdown, are some of the things that organisations have had to consider. It is a tricky subject. Staff now work flexi hours, so how does that affect annual leave amid the covid pandemic? Does anything change?
The issue is that, with employees working from home, there is a sense of always being online, and at times, almost an expectation that they should always be reachable. However, in a world during lockdown, leave rules still apply. “More and more, we hear about employees finding it hard to switch off completely, even when on their statutory annual leave,” said experts at legal firm Bowmans, according to Business Tech. “Employers could start seeing a trend where employees take less annual leave, or are tempted to work while on leave, and ultimately forfeit more annual leave that is not taken on time.”
This, however, is in contravention of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), which states that employees be granted at least 21 consecutive days annual leave. This means that if an employee works five days a week, they will receive 15 days of paid leave. If they work six days a week they will receive 18 days.
The BCEA further states that leave may be taken during the employee’s leave cycle. It’s up to the employer when the leave may be taken. An employee cannot demand to take leave if the employer can’t do without them at that time.
If leave has not been taken during the employee’s annual leave cycle, it can carry forward to the next cycle. If leave has been carried forward, the employer must allow the employee to take that leave within the first 6 months of the new leave cycle. It’s still at the employer’s discretion when this leave can be taken, as long as they do allow the employee to take it within the first six months.
Working flexible hours, or remotely, does not change this and it should not be downplayed. As Bowmans noted, if there is an always-on working culture, it may have the “undesired effect that employees take less annual leave or work during their leave,” which makes enforcing statutory leave provisions even more important. “Employers are expected to play an important role here,” Bowmans said. “If the work must continue while an employee is on leave, appropriate arrangements should be made for the person’s tasks to be handled by another team member. Employers ought to incorporate this requirement into their leave policies to ensure that their businesses continue to run smoothly and to limit the necessity to contact the employees on annual leave.”
Adhering to leave rules amid lockdown could be made easier through accurate annual leave recording. “Although the BCEA is clear that annual leave may only be taken by agreement with or at a time directed by the employer, annual leave is not always properly recorded, particularly with businesses that do not have shift work,” Bowmans continued. “Employers must ensure they keep detailed records of each employee’s annual leave.”
Manually recording and tracking leave could result in errors, which is why there is a need for an online leave management system.. These leave trackers, like LeavePro, are essential in helping you stay compliant with the BCEA. How? Cloud-based online leave management system providers regularly update their products to ensure they conform to the latest laws and regulations pertaining to leave. These laws can be complicated and it is easy to unknowingly contravene them without an online leave management system.
There are also various other benefits that come with using an online leave management system. Employees can apply for leave and check their balances online without needing to contact HR, while managers have all the information readily available, thus saving time and increasing productivity by eliminating the back-and-forths involved in the leave application process. Furthermore, all leave information is available in one place to view, and this information can be accessed and tracked from phones, iPads and other devices, from anywhere at any time.
LeavePro combines these, and various other features, to make the leave management process simple and easy. If you want to try it out, we are offering a 30-day free trial to give you the full experience of what LeavePro has to offer. You can also book a demo if you want to learn more about the system.