Dealing with extra holiday days

In the summer, most people take 3 weeks’ holiday. But sometimes employees still have a backlog of holiday hours and want to take extra days off. This can make holiday planning difficult, especially if you already have a staff shortage. Labour lawyer Hans Kamerbeek and HR expert Claartje Pothof advise what you can and may do in this situation. And give tips on how to deal with holiday days in excess of the statutory requirements.

Rights and obligations 

As an employer, you are required to respect your employees’ right to leave. For example, an employee is entitled to at least 4 times the number of working days per week as statutory holiday days. If your employee builds up more holiday days, these are extra non-statutory holiday days.

In principle, employees are entitled to take leave whenever they want. But there are exceptions for special situations. Labour lawyer Hans Kamerbeek explains: "If this brings the company to a standstill, that is an exception. In this situation, you could prevent all employees from taking leave at the same time. Naturally, employees can still take days off some other time."

Basic rules on expiry of holiday days

If an employee has built up a lot of holiday days, there is a chance they may not be able to use them all up. There are also rights and obligations associated with this situation. "You have to remind your employees that their statutory leave expires at some point," says Kamerbeek.

Statutory holiday days expire six months after the calendar year. Holiday days that employees accrue in 2024 expire on July 1, 2025. Employees can take non-statutory holiday days up to 5 years after they have accrued them. So, make sure employees use up their statutory holiday days first and only then the extra ones. Together with your employee, you can also choose to pay out these non-statutory holiday days.

Using up extra holiday days 

Do your employees have a lot of extra holiday days? Work together to see how you can deal with this. Here are some tips to help you move forward. 

Tip 1: Explain the problem to your staff 

“You will need to work with your staff to find a solution for managing excess leave”, says HR expert Claartje Pothof. “So be transparent and tell them what you are up against. Be open about your motives. Explain that staggering or spreading leave will improve the company’s financial situation, which increases your employees’ job security.” 

Tip 2: Draw up a work forecast 

Predict how many working hours you will need in the coming months. If you have insight into the work that needs to be done, you will also know when you can afford to have your employees take leave. Is peak season just around the corner or are things quieting down? When do you most need which roles? Make smart plans and schedule leave early so that your employees can alternate. 

You can also consider solutions such as overtime and undertime, extra work, and flexible schedules. You might find employees who are willing to cover for each other, so that they can both go on holiday when they want. 

Tip 3: Explore solutions together 

Do you have to disappoint your employees by rejecting their ideal holiday request? Explore whether you can make it up to them in some other way. “Ask your people to work a little harder now and reward them with flexibility later,” Pothof explains. “Embrace hybrid working, allowing employees to choose when and where they want to work. Or give your employees the opportunity to work remotely from abroad for a time.” 

Are some employees still left with a sizeable leave balance even after their holidays? In that case, see if it is possible for them to take half an hour’s leave every day, or half a day off every week. That way, you can spread their hours or days off more evenly. 

Tip 4: Prevent leave from expiring 

Make sure that employees do not lose their leave if they are forced to postpone their holidays. HR expert Pothof: “You have a duty of care. Employees need plenty of rest. Leave exists for a reason. Employees have to recover from their workdays and need days off.” Postponing leave for too long can jeopardise health and safety. 

In addition, employees must take leave to avoid losing it. Both statutory leave and extra non-statutory leave can expire. Collective labour agreements and employment contracts may contain additional agreements on leave. Tell your employees about the rules, so that together you can prevent their leave from expiring. For example, by giving priority in taking half-days free to employees whose leave is about to expire.