Employment Update regarding changes to Working Time Regulations 1998 and carrying over annual leave

Date Added 06.04.20

On 27th March 2020, the Government announced that by way of a temporary amendment to the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), workers will be allowed to carry over up to four weeks annual leave 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.

Under the WTR, full-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days’ holiday which includes the usual 8 public holidays. This is made up of:

  • four weeks’ leave, which represents the right under the Working Time Directive to a minimum of four weeks’ annual leave (“EU Leave”); and
  • 1.6 weeks’ leave, which is a domestic right and amounts to the number of public holidays in the UK each year, although there is no requirement to use these days on public holidays.

The four weeks’ EU Leave cannot generally be carried over, unless a worker has been unable to take it due to sickness or maternity leave. This means if workers don’t take it, they will lose it – subject to any agreement with their employer. However, following the announcement, this will now be possible.

This is an important development for employers to be aware of in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it will reduce the pressure on businesses and provide them with the ability to manage their workforce more flexibly. Employers are able to ask for their workers to take holiday within a holiday year, with required notice and can refuse or accept holiday requests. However, without these new measures, employers would remain liable to a financial penalty if they did not ensure their workers took their statutory entitlement in any one year, so it’s helpful that unused holiday, up to the four weeks’ EU Leave, can be carried over, to help manage a situation where holiday has accrued but it cannot all be taken in that holiday year.

Workers may not be able to take their holiday because they’re self-isolating, have been laid off or put on furlough leave, or have too much work to enable any time off.

The usual rules will apply in respect of a worker’s entitlement to the additional 1.6 weeks’ annual leave, so this can be carried forward by one year by agreement, but there is no absolute right.

Whilst the announcement is aimed at key workers who are having to cancel holidays to fight the outbreak, this change is applicable to all workers, including agency workers and those on zero-hours contracts.

If you have any questions in regard to this change or any other employment queries talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. . We’re here for you.

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