Members please see below transcript I've sent to Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary, Department for Communities re the carry over of annual leave.

Dooley Harte
Assistant Secretary

I am writing to you regarding correspondence issued to all staff regarding the carry over of annual leave.

As you will know, The Working Time Regulations (NI) 2010 were amended to allow workers affected by Covid 19 to carry over annual leave entitlement from the 2020/21 leave year into the 2021/22 leave year. You will also be aware that the legislation now affords workers an entitlement to carry leave over where it has not been reasonably practicable to take that leave as a result of coronavirus.

I would suggest that in this case, reasonably practicable means that the right to carry over leave must be balanced against the time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty of taking that leave.

Also, as part of consultation with NICSHR, NIPSA agreed the relevant FAQ that states:

The normal provisions under 3.07 Annual Leave paragraph 3.1.4 will apply. Careful and sympathetic consideration should be given to these requests where possible. Managers should take into account circumstances where it is has not been reasonably practicable for their member of staff to take some or all of their leave as a result of the COVID -19 coronavirus pandemic.

And with regards the NICS Staff Handbook, the provision to carry over more than 9 days (Para 3.1.4) has always been there and can be applied when a member of staff has a reason to carry over more leave than usual. The example in the handbook is to visit relatives in distant countries or another typical reason would be wanting extra time because your wedding is due to take place.

I have been made aware of recent correspondence to staff that states leave will only be allowed to be carried over where staff have been “specifically prevented by management from taking their full annual leave allowance in the year in which it is earned are allowed” and that this will only be “exceptional". Managers in other areas have been quoted as telling staff that only a maximum of 9 days will be allowed to be carried over regardless of any circumstances.

I would argue that the requirements under the legislation and the commitments under the agreement between NICSHR and NIPSA as set out in the FAQs have not been met by DfC management as referenced above. While NIPSA fully supports that our members should have access to leave for rest and recuperation, they also have a right to have their own circumstances considered under both the legislation and the agreement with NICSHR.

There has been no careful and sympathetic consideration given in this ‘use it or lose it’ demand from management. No consideration has been given to what constitutes reasonably practicable as required by the legislation and certainly we see no balanced approach to personal circumstances and impact on the Department.

Given this, we would seek an urgent meeting with you to discuss the points raised in this correspondence. The staff in DfC have went over and beyond when the virus struck and the lockdown began. While their colleagues in DWP were getting flexi credit and enhanced overtime rates, they did not receive this but still continued to come to work and provide that essential service.

These staff who have been congratulated by managers and Ministers for their work are now being treated differently that staff in other Departments. While other civil servants are able to carry over in excess of 9 days, DfC are setting out a stall that will lead to staff losing leave if it’s not taken, regardless of the personal circumstances for those staff.

I hope to meet with you shortly to hopefully agree a way forward on this and look forward to a quick response.

Yours sincerely

Dooley Harte