International Society of Primerus Law Firms

Obliging employees to take holidays. Is that allowed?

Russell Advocaten B.V.
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Employees cannot work in the shop or the company. Can you, as an employer, oblige them to take their holidays?

It is not possible to oblige employees to take days off. Compulsory holidays can only be taken with the employee’s consent or if this has been agreed in the collective agreement or the employment contract.

Compulsory holidays because of the coronavirus?

In principle, employees are not obliged to take their holidays at a time determined by the employer. The general rule for taking holidays is that the employer has to agree to a request from the employee. Only if substantial business interests do not allow for it, the employer may refuse a request and determine the holiday period for the employee himself. In practice, this mainly concerns the continuity of the business, or fixed holiday periods as for schools and the construction industry. It does not include a shutdown due to the corona crisis. Because of the NOW scheme and other government support measures the employer has, after all, no interest to make employees take their holidays just now.

Compulsory holiday-taking is only possible if arrangements to this end have been made in the collective agreement or the employment contract. Such arrangements often concern a limited number of days, such as the Friday after Ascension Day or days around Christmas and New Year’s Eve when there is a “bridging day” between the holidays and the weekend. These compulsory holiday days must be announced well in advance. Often, before 1 December of the previous year.

If no arrangements are made, the employer is dependent on the employee’s consent. In the event of a “bridging day” this will generally not cause major problems. However, this is different if the employer wants to make employees take holidays for a longer period of time. Because of all quarantine measures holiday away from home is currently not possible. Hence, the employee has little reason to agree to such a request from the employer.

What can be done?

You can request your employees to take “bridging days”. In 2020, this is not only the day after Ascension Day (Friday, 22 May) but also the day before Liberation Day (Monday, 4 May).

You can also point put to your employees that the statutory holidays must be taken within six months of the year in which they have accrued. If you do not inform the employees, these holidays will not lapse. An exception to taking these holidays within six months is if the employee was unable to take these holidays. The question is whether the corona crisis will fall under this exception. After all, the statutory holidays 2019 could have been taken since 1 January 2019, and the corona crisis in the Netherlands did not actually start before the beginning of March 2020.

Finally, it is not unlikely that when the coronavirus measures are eased, many employees will go on holiday at the same time. In that case, you might have to invoke substantial business interests and ensure that there are always enough employees present at your company.

More information

Would you like to learn more about holidays and what your options are as an employer? Or are you looking for advice on how to limit the impact of the corona crisis? Please contact our corona crisis team:

Or call +31 20 301 55 55.

The general information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.

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