Chris Randall: How unused holidays can be carried over for the next two years

The government has announced it will allow workers to carry over up to four weeks annual leave into the next two leave years. At present, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days holiday including bank holidays each year. Most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years, which means workers lose their holiday if they do not take it.

The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (not yet published) will amend regulation 13 of the Working Time Regulations to allow workers to carry over EU holiday into the next two leave years, where it is not reasonably practicable for them to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus.  

Regulation 13 only deals with the EU four weeks’ leave. The balance of 1.6 weeks’ statutory leave will not be affected (although it can be carried over for up to a year by agreement under existing law).

The change is aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. This will mean staff can continue working in the national effort against the coronavirus without losing out on annual leave entitlement.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Whether it is in our hospitals, or our supermarkets, people are working around the clock to help our country deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The changes will mean these valued employees do not lose out on the annual leave they are entitled to as a result of their efforts, and employers are not penalised.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice also said: “From our fields to our supermarkets, we are hugely grateful to the many people working around the clock to keep the nation fed.

“At this crucial time, relaxing laws on statutory leave will help ensure key workers can continue the important work to keep supplies flowing, but without losing the crucial time off they are entitled to.

“We welcome the measures the food industry is already taking to keep shelves stocked and supply chains resilient, and will continue to support them with their response to coronavirus.”

The changes will amend the Working Time Regulations, which apply to almost all workers, including agency workers, those who work irregular hours, and workers on zero-hours contracts.

— Chris Randall is the Head of Employment Law at Ringrose Law

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