Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement this year due to the coronavirus will be able to carry it over into the next two leave years, the government has announced.
The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 will amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 to create an exemption relating specifically to the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus: Employer response
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.
“Today’s 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.”
Currently, most workers are entitled to 28 days holiday, including bank holidays each year. Although some companies allow employees to ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ holiday to either add to their entitlement or receive pay instead, most will lose holiday if they do not take it.
There is also an obligation on employers to ensure that workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year as failure to do so could result in a financial penalty.
The changes mean employees can carry up to four weeks of unused leave into the next two leave years “where it is not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some, or all, of the holiday to which they are entitled due to the coronavirus”, the government said.
The working time regulations apply to almost all workers including agency workers, hourly-paid workers and those on zero-hours contracts.
Environment secretary George Eustice said that relaxing rules on statutory leave would ensure that key workers could continue their important work during the pandemic crisis without concerns about losing time off.
“From our fields to our supermarkets, we are hugely grateful to the many people working around the clock to keep the nation fed,” he said.
“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 government stressed that employers were under an obligation to ensure that workers have adequate opportunity to take their holiday, and that it should not be replaced with pay in lieu unless the worker is leaving employment.