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THE YEAR 2020 put worker morale to the test. It did not help that many employees were unable to enjoy a normal holiday, or had to change their plans. For Bartleby, two sun-drenched weeks in Spain were converted into a wet week in Cornwall, marked by an attempt to eat a pasty on the beach in the face of a sudden hailstorm. Finding a restaurant was virtually impossible because of the high demand created by the British government’s “eat out to help out” scheme.
Like many people, Bartleby is left with unused annual leave. But he is lucky that The Economist is a benign employer, willing to let him carry over a couple of weeks. Not every company can afford to be so kind. The occasional loss of a business columnist is not much of a handicap. Things are rather different when the employee is the client manager for the firm’s largest customer or the production manager at a microprocessor plant.

The more vital the worker, the more likely they will have been to be asked to postpone their annual leave in the pandemic. This may leave employers with headaches in the coming year as workers catch up before their unused holiday is lost. Brian Kropp of Gartner, a consultancy, expects to see the lion’s share of staff shortages to land in the first half of 2021.
For multinational firms, the different rules and…
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