Temporary New Rules on Carrying Over Holiday Leave: Top Tips for Employers

September 23, 2020


The UK Government has introduced temporary amendments to the Working Time Regulations (WTR) to allow staff who are unable to take their full statutory annual leave entitlement this year or the next due to COVID-19 to carry-over up to 4 weeks’ leave into the following year.

What are the WTR?

The WTR provide staff with a statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave (in the UK this is inclusive of bank holidays) per year. However, many employers, at their discretion have an annual leave policy which allows their staff to take more holiday than their statutory entitlement under the WTR.

Staff normally need to use their statutory holiday entitlement in the current holiday year, unless they are prevented from taking their leave due to sickness absence or family leave, or unless otherwise permitted by their contracts of employment. In such cases, staff are permitted to carry over a limited amount of holiday to the next holiday year.

What do the temporary changes mean?

The temporary amendments to the WTR apply to staff who are self-isolating, too ill to take their full statutory annual leave entitlement before the end of the holiday leave year, or have had to continue working due to pressures caused by the pandemic.

Who do they apply to?

The new rules apply to employees and workers, including agency workers, casual workers and those on zero-hours contracts. The relaxation of the rules is therefore likely to affect the majority of employers.

What are the benefits?

Temporarily relaxing the carry over rules will ease the requirement on employers to ensure that their staff take their full statutory annual leave entitlement during the current and the next holiday year. It will also give employers greater flexibility in respect of their ability to manage staff annual leave entitlement during the pandemic.

Top Tips for Employers

Laura Masterton outlines top tips on managing staff holiday entitlement and carry-over during the pandemic:

  1. Encourage staff to take their holiday when they can, as this will avoid a backlog of annual leave requests at the end of the holiday year, or when you need your workforce working, in order to manage the pressures of the pandemic.

  2. Consider staff mental wellbeing; they need to take time off to rest and relax. Well-rested staff perform best. Try and avoid burnout amongst your staff members.

  3. Keep an eye on individual holiday allowances and regularly review whether or not staff are using their annual leave entitlement.

  4. Ensure your annual leave policy is easily accessible and update it to reflect the current situation and the temporary rules on carry-over. Communicate the change to your staff.

  5. Don’t forget your staff who are/have been on furlough leave during the pandemic. They will continue to accrue annual leave entitlement throughout their furlough leave. You can ask staff who are still on furlough to use up some of their holiday entitlement during their furlough leave provided that you top up their pay to 100% of their normal salary for the period they are on annual leave.

  6. Remind your staff to continue to adhere to social distancing measures whilst on holiday. Remember that if staff have gone on holiday abroad, they may be required to self-isolate when they return to the UK. Consider whether they can continue to work from home if this is the case, and if not, whether the affected staff could take more holiday or need to go on unpaid leave whilst they self-isolate.



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