Working Time Regulations amended to allow workers to carry over holiday not taken due to coronavirus

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Posted on 30 Mar 2020

The Government has amended the Working Time Regulations 1998 to introduce more flexibility so that workers can carry over the four weeks' core holiday entitlement granted under the Regulations for up to two years.

This change only applies if it has not been reasonably practicable for the worker to take the holiday as a result of the effects of coronavirus, including on themselves, their employer, or the wider economy and society.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 give workers an entitlement to 5.6 weeks’ annual leave. This is made up of:

  • 4 weeks' core leave which the worker must normally take in the leave year in which it accrues
  • 1.6 weeks' additional leave. Workers are already able to carry over if this is agreed, for example in the contract, but they are only able to carry it over into the next leave year

The amendment which has been made applies only to the four weeks’ core leave. It means that workers will no longer have to take this leave in the leave year in which it accrues and will instead be entitled to carry it over and take it, either in the following leave year, or the year after that. This means if your leave year runs from 1 January 2020 until 31 December 2020, a worker may take up to two additional years, to 31 December 2022, to use up their four weeks core leave entitlement.

In addition, if the worker leaves employment before the two years are up, they are entitled to a payment in lieu of this carried-over leave.

Employers are only able to deny workers the opportunity to take this leave in the two-year period for a “good reason”, though this is not currently defined.

The change does not affect any additional contractual holiday entitlement that an employer may give. Carry over of this holiday will be subject to the terms of the contract, holiday policy or at the employer's own discretion.  

The change means that businesses that need staff to continue working to deal with the impact of the pandemic will not have to worry about making sure their workers take their core four week leave entitlement in the current leave year. In addition, current travel restrictions and rules and guidance on self-isolating, social distancing and shielding mean that employers could face a large number of holiday requests when these restrictions are relaxed. As a result of the change, employers will be in a better position to manage holiday requests and limit the numbers on holiday at any particular time, although they will need a good reason for refusing a request to take carried over leave.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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