Changes to holiday rules during coronavirus

Mar 31, 2020 | Good Management

Many employers will be struggling with annual leave over the coming months. In some sectors this will be because they are a key industry and as such are exceptionally busy, and need all the workers they can get during the coronavirus pandemic. In some sectors they may be placing many workers on furlough for several weeks or even months, during which they will not be taking holiday.

In both these scenarios, making sure all staff can take their entire annual leave entitlement before the end of the holiday year may be problematic.

As part of its measures to support employers during this challenging period, the Government has relaxed the usual rules on holiday carry over. Workers in the UK are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday (28 days for full time employees) each year. Ordinarily, the requirement is that they must take at least four weeks in the holiday year, it being possible (with the agreement of the employer) to carry over the remaining 1.6 weeks (or anything else they are entitled to over and above the contractual minimum). Many employers don’t allow carry over at all, or allow only minimum carry over.

In these exceptional circumstances, it will now be possible to carry over a maximum of four weeks’ holiday, to be taken over the following two holiday years instead.  This change only applies where the reason the holiday cannot be taken is the coronavirus outbreak, and the provision should only be used if absolutely necessary.

Clearly it is better for workers to get a regular break from work where at all possible, so if you can facilitate this you should. In addition, obviously having many workers carrying over weeks and weeks of holiday entitlement is only going to present you with challenges next year and the year after when you find yourself having to facilitate a higher absence rate than usual.

So only use it if you have to, but this temporary change at least gives you some more flexibility around holiday and enables you to push some of it into the next two years if you need to.

You can also manage holiday during the current health crisis by requiring staff to cancel planned holiday or to take holiday at times nominated by you. To do this you need to give staff twice as much notice as the length of the period of holiday you wish them to take – for example if you want them to take a week’s annual leave, you need to give them two weeks’ notice.

So there are a number of options available to you to help you manage holiday challenges over the coming months.


If you’d like some advice on holiday rules or managing staff absence during coronavirus, do get in touch.