Holidays and leave for employees

Employers must comply with legal requirements on employees’ working hours. Giving employees fair holidays and pay can also help to improve performance, reduce accidents and cut unauthorized absenteeism.

Annual leave allows employees to take paid time off from work for the purpose of having regular breaks so that they can rest and re-energize. Employees who take regular holidays can be more motivated about their work and perform more effectively than those who do not. They are less prone to accidents and are less likely to suffer from stress because they have regular opportunity to rest, which means they might take less sickness absence.

According to the Ghana’s Labour Act 2003 (Act 651), Holidays Act, 2001 (Act 601), workers are entitled to paid Festival (public and religious) holidays. Festival holidays are announced by Ghanaian Government at the start of calendar year (usually 13 in number).

The public holidays are regulated under the Public Holidays Law, 1989. These days are New Year’s Day (January 01), Independence Day (March 06), Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day (May 01), Africa Unity Day (May 25), Republic Day (July 01), Eid-il-Fitr, Founders’ Day (September 21), Eid-il-Adha, Farmers’ Day (December 04), Christmas Day (December 25) and Boxing Day (December 26). Muslims holidays vary from year to year, depending on the lunar movement. If a public holiday falls on a non-working day, the next working day would be appointed as a public holiday.

Weekly Rest Days

Workers, except domestic workers in private homes and task-based workers, are entitled to forty-eight consecutive hours (2 days) of rest per week. The weekly rest days are usually Saturday and Sunday. Weekly rest period is independent of public holidays.

Apart from weekly rest day, workers are also granted a daily continuous rest of at least twelve hours duration between two consecutive working days. The daily rest in an undertaking operating on a seasonal basis may be of less than ten hours but of not more than twelve hours’ duration over a period of at least sixty consecutive days in the calendar year.

In case, the normal working hours are continuous, a worker is entitled to at least thirty minutes break in the course of the work, but the break forms part of the normal hours of work; and if the normal hours of work are, in two parts, the break should not be of less than one-hour duration and does not form part of the normal hours of work.

A daily rest of at least twelve continues hours is granted to an employee between two consecutive working days. For the employees working on seasonal basis, daily rest of at least ten hours is provided, which may not exceed twelve hours’ duration over a period of at least sixty consecutive days in the calendar year.

Paid Vacation / Annual Leave

A worker is entitled to at least 15 working days fully paid annual leave, after completion of 12 months of continuous service. Continuity of service is not interrupted by mere change of ownership or management of the undertaking. The worker must have worked for at least 200 days in the particular year to fulfill the requirement for continuous service, in case of irregular work throughout the year. If a worker is absent from work with permission of employer, this period is not considered as interruption. Public holidays and absence from duty due to sickness certified by a medical practitioner, and pregnancy and confinement, do not affect the annual leave entitlement of a worker. Annual leave is fully paid leave and the leave pay includes basic pay including equivalent pay for in-kind benefit and excluding overtime payments.

A worker may be permitted to take his/her annual leave in two approximate equal parts. Every worker has the right to enjoy annual leave without any interruption however an employer, in cases of urgent necessity, may require a worker to interrupt his/her leave and return to work. Employer must compensate the interruption afterwards by any reasonable expense incurred on account of the interruption, and also resumption of the leave by the worker.

Employer must inform the worker at least 30 days prior to the commencement of leave about start of leave. Annual leaves is independent of sick leave certified by medical practitioner due to sickness occurring during the term of annual leave. On termination of employment contract, the worker is entitled to annual leave in proportion to the period of service in the calendar year (except in the case of termination without notice by the employer). Any agreement to relinquish the right to annual leave or to forgo such leave is null and void.

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Employers are required to keep a record showing the following particulars: the date of employment of each worker employed by the employer and the duration of the annual leave to which the worker is entitled; the dates on which the annual leave is taken by each worker; and the remuneration received by each worker in respect of the annual leave.

An important part of just about any compensation package is the time-off benefits employers have the option of providing to their employees. Mandated time-off is limited but the optional time-off you can offer your employees is much more varied and includes holidays, vacations, sick leave, personal leave, and bereavement leave. These types of time-off benefits can be a very valuable part of your employee benefit package.

If you’re in a business that must deal with other businesses that observe the holiday, it may be better to give the employee the holiday off. If they have to do a lot of interacting with other businesses that will be closed, they won’t get much done anyway. On the other hand, if you have a business that might do big business on a holiday, such as a store or a restaurant, you may want to stay open and pay the employees who do work time double time, as is often the custom.

Personal reasons may be the reason behind the granting of holiday time-off to your employees. You may want the day off to spend with your family or pursue some recreational activities. If you’re going to be out, you may just want to close the business for the holiday. If you use this approach, be sure to give employees enough time to plan for their holiday and try to be consistent in the holidays that you take off. If you take a holiday off one year but not the next, employees (and customers) won’t know how to plan for their holiday.

Paying employees for holidays:  If you don’t want to pay employees for the holiday, chances are most employees won’t take the time anyway, unless it is a religious holiday or unless you allow them to use a vacation day (if you offer paid vacation benefits). Most employees won’t take a day off if they won’t get paid for it. However, having to work on a day when almost all other businesses are closed is sure to cause some resentment on the part of your employees. Remember — time off is a valuable commodity to most workers.

Let me share with you what Suzanne Lucas has to say concerning employees benefit from taking extended vacation time. The employer has opportunity to take a look at how the employee is performing on the job through the eyes and access you provide to another employee. The US government strongly encourages (although does not legally require) bank employees to take vacations. Why? To prevent fraud.

You can see how the employer benefits when employees take extended vacation time but can a week or two away from the office benefit employees, too? Clinical psychologist Deborah Mulhern shared with ABC news that not only are vacations good now but if you don’t take them, you’ll lose the ability to relax. She said:

“Without time and opportunity to do this, the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes,” Mulhern said. “What neuroscience is showing is that we require down time in order for our bodies to go through the process of restoration. It is only when we are safe from external stresses that our bodies can relax enough to activate restoration.”

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Are Long Vacations the Only Way?

No. What is important is the break. The Wall Street Journal says that what’s important is the recharging:

“Psychologists and researchers have been studying how to create an ideal vacation that boosts our well-being, relieves stress that can impact our health, and helps us recharge for returning to work.

Longer vacations aren’t necessarily better than shorter ones. Engage in activities you haven’t done before, even if you’re at home on a staycation. And end a trip on a high note.” A short vacation can recharge you, as long as you aren’t just cleaning out your basement. That’s a break from work, but not a  break from stress and that’s what you need. You need that downtime to recharge and focus on your job.

How Employers Can Encourage Employees to Take Paid Vacation Time Off

As an employer, you have ways that you can use to assist your employees in taking advantage of their paid vacation time.

Some companies (and many government jobs) allow employees to bank an unlimited amount of vacation time. When you quit, you get all of that accumulated vacation time paid out in cash. While lots of people love this idea, it’s not healthy in the long run. Employees need regular time off.

Rather than offering employees vacation time accumulation, companies should do two things according to Suzanne Lucas:

  1. Limit vacation accumulation and rollovers. While it isn’t always practical for every person to use their allotted vacation time every year by December 31, employees should be encouraged to use vacation and not rewarded by hoarding it. Limit the number of days that will rollover into the next year.
  2. Provide paid disability leaves. One of the reasons people hoard vacation time is so that they can afford to take time for a baby, or surgery, or an unexpected problem. Companies should think about how best to meet their employees’ needs for these events without having them burn out when they never get a reasonable break from work.

Employee Do’s and Don’ts with Vacation Time

Don’t:

Work. It is tempting to call into that meeting and respond to all emails, so you don’t get behind, but then you’re not on vacation, you’re just working from somewhere else.

Go into debt. You don’t need a fancy trip to Disney World or the Caribbean to have time off count as a vacation. If you go into debt for your vacation, you’re added stress back into your workday. It’s better to do a staycation and go to the park than it is to accumulate debt in your attempt to relax. Remember we are in December and many holidays are coming, don’t allow your January to be more than one long month

Use all vacation days for other obligations. You’re a good child, so you want to help out your aging parents, or move your child into their new dorm room. These activities are great. But, if you use all of your vacation to do other work (including cleaning your own basement), you’ll never get that chance to relax.

Do:

Something fun. It’s not relaxing if you’re not having fun. What that fun is, varies from person to person. You may love hiking while someone else may see that as a fate worse than death. What’s important is that you break your routine.

Use your allotted vacation time. It’s part of your compensation. You’d never voluntarily give up a chunk of your salary, but that’s precisely what you are doing when you work for free—which is what employees who have use it or lose it vacation days do.

Encourage your coworkers/employees to take their vacations. If you want a great vacation, then cover for your coworkers when they are out of the office. This makes it easier for everyone to take great vacation time when you have a supportive team.

Vacation is actually a critical part of a good work-life balance. Make sure that you take your vacation. Turn off the phone and have a good time, the power is yours.

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