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Press Release

Irish businesses and employees face immediate and future challenges due to accrued annual leave caused by COVID-19 – Willis Towers Watson Research

Future of Work|Talent|Total Rewards|Integrated Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

July 3, 2020

  • No employers planning cash reimbursements for unused days
  • 14% of organisations say employees will forfeit unused annual leave days, without any special arrangements being made for the impact of the crisis on employees’ holiday plans
  • A quarter of employers have adjusted annual leave policy due to COVID-19
  • 54% not considering any changes to the normal sick pay procedures

DUBLIN - 03 July 2020 COVID-19 pulse survey research undertaken by Willis Towers Watson has found that employers and employees in Ireland are facing significant challenges related to the use of annual leave and associated knock on impacts. With fewer employees planning and taking holidays this summer, 45% of organisations are considering some changes to annual leave but most have not yet made any decisions on how to proceed.

A pressing challenge for organisations across Ireland, 47% are still unsure how, and whether, to compensate employees for unused holiday time. As a result, many employees across Ireland are facing greater uncertainty.

With fewer employees likely to take leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations need to decide how they will manage accrued annual leave with a quarter of employers having already adjusted their annual leave policies. Only a small minority of organisations (14%) have said that employees will forfeit any unused annual leave, providing some clarity at least.

Annual Leave Compensation

Some businesses have already taken the decision to carry forward any unused annual leave (38%) which will be a relief to employees as they face into a summer of fewer travel options. Approximately half of the organisations surveyed were still unsure of how best to compensate employees for unused days, but none are considering reimbursing employees in cash.

Wellbeing & Sick Pay

The survey also looked at trends concerning sick pay and entitlements in the current landscape. The survey suggests that employers are prioritizing employee wellbeing and health, providing reassurance to employees.

Nearly 2 in 5 employers will pay employees their full wage if they are asked to self-isolate at home with only 3% of organisations asking employees to use their annual leave for such an eventuality.

Over half of employers (54%) surveyed are not considering any changes to their normal sick pay procedures, providing peace of mind for any employees who do fall ill that they will continue to be supported by their organisation’s regular sick pay policy.

More generally, organisations are working hard to balance business sustainability with employee experience and are taking positive actions to support employee wellbeing during this crisis. 60% of employers in Ireland surveyed have introduced shift flexibility to provide support to those juggling childcare considerations, while 56% have already increased access to counseling.

Commenting on the survey results, Sarah McDonough, Practice Leader for Talent and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson in Ireland, said; “For both employers and employees, this is surely not the summer they had planned. As the initial impact of COVID-19 settles, businesses now face the challenge of how best to navigate annual leave planning and supporting employees directly impacted.

The issue of annual leave is an important consideration as employees need to be able to take a break for their health and well-being”

Sarah McDonough
Practice Leader for Talent and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson in Ireland

“The issue of annual leave is an important consideration as employees need to be able to take a break for their health and well-being, and for employers they need to ensure they are meeting the needs of employees and also clients. With so much accrued and disrupted leave, there is a danger that too many employees will be on leave in the second half of the year, potentially leaving businesses vulnerable as they are getting back on their feet.”

“With regard to sick pay and employee care, it is encouraging to see Irish employers continuing their support and being open to changing practices. Whether it be annual leave or sick leave, it will be important for employers and employees to work together to manage the day-to-day fall out of COVID-19 to ensure future success.”

About the COVID-19 Pulse Survey

The Willis Towers Watson COVID-19 Pulse Survey measured attitudes of organisations when facing Covid-19 issues. A total of 996 employers based in Great Britain and Western Europe took part in the Survey, which was conducted during April 2020. A total of 104 employers with Irish operations responded to the survey. The full survey results can be found here.

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