Would employees in Ireland ever be allowed to donate annual leave?

Author: Siobhán Lafferty

August 2, 2018

During the height of summer, donating your annual leave to another employee might not be your biggest priority. However, whilst employees might not be keen to donate their annual leave generally, there may be situations, such as where a fellow employee has a seriously ill child, when employees may wish to do so. This issue arose in Italy recently.

A bus driver for a bus company in Bergamo had to care for his son after he had undergone corrective back surgery in 2017, and could not undertake routine tasks for himself. As the bus driver had already used all of his paid leave days, colleagues stepped in and donated parts of their holiday time, which has been permitted in Italy since 2015. This resulted in him having eight more months of paid leave to look after his son.

Legislation was also enacted in France in 2014 (Loi no 2014-459), and was brought into force due to a similar situation where employees were able to anonymously donate their leave to a colleague whose son had cancer, with the agreement of their employer.

But are there obstacles to implementing such a rule? 

In order to impose these changes upon employers, it would likely require amendments to the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. This Act outlines the statutory minimum entitlements for annual leave as well as for the working week, night work, breaks and rest periods.  Further, it would be necessary to ensure that employees still take their minimum entitlement to annual leave and that this was not used in a way to circumvent taking of leave. Employees must take their statutory amount of annual leave, i.e., 4 working weeks when the employee works in excess of 1,365 hours. However if an employee has been granted leave about the statutory amount in their contract of employment, they could potentially donate this leave to another employee. Finally, employers would need to ensure that no bullying or harassment of employees who had leave took place to force them to donate leave.

That being said, there is no doubt that there is a benefit to the workforce in being able to assist a colleague in such a difficult time of need, and that leave could be donated in much smaller amounts – such as a matter of hours rather than days. In a time when the EU and Ireland are looking at different issues in terms of family leave, it may be worthwhile for Ireland to monitor the success of these laws elsewhere in Europe and consider whether it may be beneficial here too.

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