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The festive season is here with us, after 12 months of hard work businesses are taking a break to join family members and relatives in celebrating Christmas and New Year Holidays.

Most companies begin their calendar year from January and end it in December but organisations such as the government have a different calendar, which ends in June.

During the full-year period, employers as required by the law to allocate employees leave days, which allows them to take a break, recharge and come back fresh for daily operations.

According to Human Resource expert Mr Luke Anami, leave days are important to both an employer and the employee.

As he notes in the case of an employee, it allows staff to balance between work and other duties, which in the end improves individual performance and that of the company.

“A proper leave management also means that the business can operate more effectively, employers meet employees’ need for time-off, and you satisfy your legal obligations,” he adds.

“Paid time-off has a significant financial impact on a company’s bottom line in the end.”

Janet Martin, a Human Resource expert notes that permanent employees are always entitled to 25 days in a year while those on contract get 24 days-off. “This is not the case with unionisable employees who get up to 40 days or more,” she says.

Besides the normal leave days, employees are also entitled to 30-day maternity leave, sick off and the sick leave, 5-day study leave, 6-month sabbatical leave, 14-day paternity leave and the compassionate leave.

Mr Anami says it is important for the Human Resource department to ensure strict adherence to leave days and that no employee should carry forward leave days.

“When an employee fails to take his or her leave days, it will at the end prove costly to the company.  A fatigued member of staff is not likely to perform duties fully as a refreshed colleague, cases of sickness will be witnessed impacting on the overall performance of the company,” he says.

“….And in case of exit the company whether prepared or not will have to pay the accumulated leave days,” he adds.

Mywage.org/Kenya, a website connected to the International WageIndicator Network explains facts employees need to know about the annual leave.

What is annual leave?

Annual leave is a period off work that an employee is entitled to after every 12 consecutive months of service with an employer. Under section 28 of the Employment Act, annual leave is 21 working days during which the employee is entitled to full pay. 

Must I take it all at one time?

With an agreement between an employer and an employee, annual leave can be taken in proportion, although the law allows that one part of the agreed period consists of at least two uninterrupted working weeks. 

Does this include any other holiday or leave days?

No. Annual leave is exclusive of public holidays, weekly rest days.

Is 21 days the maximum amount I am allowed?

Generally, the 21 working days for annual leave is a minimum as many contracts and collective agreements provide for annual leave of between thirty to forty-five days. In average Kenyan employees, enjoy annual leave of 24 days.

Who is entitled to annual leave?

If you have worked for the same employer for 12 consecutive months of service, you are entitled to annual leave. This also means that if you are employed temporarily but have worked for 12 consecutive months you are entitled to annual leave. Where the employee works for less than a year, the number of days will be reduced accordingly. 

In general, temporary and fixed-term employed workers enjoy all the rights of an employee working on permanent terms, except those that are excluded explicitly (such as entitlement to pensions) or by the nature of a short-term assignment (such as annual leave).

What happens if my employer accumulates or carries forward my leave?

In general, the law requires that annual leave be taken within the 12 months consecutive months of service. But in case where annual leave is taken on pro-rata basis, the law allows that the employer shall grant the two weeks uninterrupted part of leave to be taken within the 12 consecutive months of service, and the remainder part of the leave be granted and taken not later than 18 months from the end of the leave earning period which is the 12 months. 

What happens if my job is terminated before the 12 months leave cycle is finished?

In case of termination of employment after you have completed two or more consecutive months of service of the 12 months leave-earning period, you are entitled to one and three-quarter days of leave with full pay for each completed month of service in that period to be taken consecutively. 

At what rate is annual leave paid? Will I get full pay?

An employee is entitled to full pay during annual leave. Also, the Regulation of Wages Order (of various industries), subsidiary to the Regulations of Wages and Conditions of Employment Act, specifies that an employee proceeding on annual leave is entitled to payment by his employer. The order specifies various amounts to different industries. Though the amount specified in this subsidiary has been altered and increased with time depending on various industries and factors.

Can I get paid an amount of money in substitution for my annual leave? 

Annual leave becomes payable only upon termination/resignation or expiration of a contract and if you have accrued several leave days. In this case, an employer is compelled to pay an employee not less than one and three-quarter days of leave with full pay for every completed month of service in that period of leave earning period

When do I forfeit my annual leave? 

You can accumulate leave or “carry it over” when management has a reason to believe your absence from duty may hinder the production and or service delivery process. But the accumulated leave must be taken within 18 months. Otherwise, an employee will forfeit the accumulated leave.

I am a casual employee. Do I get annual leave?

A casual employee refers to an individual whose terms of engagement provide for their payment at the end of each day and who is not engaged for a longer period than twenty-four hours a day.

If one employs casual staff members who continue to work for six consecutive days, the employees will be entitled to rest on the seventh day as though they were a permanent employee.

A casual staff member will however not be entitled to payment for any day that he/she has not worked unless they worked for six consecutive days within one week, in which case, they will be entitled to a rest day with full pay.