Working While on Annual Leave

George Heron

George Heron

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Phone 01952 566918

17 August 2016

The German car manufacturer Daimler gives workers the option of automatically deleting any emails that appear in their inbox during annual leave. The sender receives a message confirming what has happened, giving an option of sending the email to an alternative employee or suggesting that the email be resent once the annual leave is over.

With research from Travel Republic indicating that over a quarter of employees cannot resist reading and replying to emails while on annual leave, it is clear that it is extremely difficult for large numbers of people to completely detach themselves from the office. Although many people report that keeping in touch with their emails actually helps them to relax (as well as reducing the mountain of unread message awaiting their return!), is it the case that this approach presents risks to employers?

The answer, potentially, is yes. Legislation explicitly states that statutory annual leave should be a rest period that is ‘not working time’. Any suggestion that employees are expected to check their emails whilst on leave will run contrary to the Working Time Directive and could potentially result in a claim. However, it is completely up to an employee if they voluntarily elect to check their work emails. Therefore, although taking steps as drastic as Daimler is not necessarily required, it would be prudent to remind staff members that they should not feel compelled to check emails when they are on holiday and that there is absolutely no expectation for them to do so.

This will demonstrate that any working activity during leave is of the employee’s volition. Other measures, such as forwarding emails to another member of staff or setting up ‘out of office’ messages can also reduce the likelihood of any employee claiming that they felt pressured into working during annual leave.

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.

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