The Government has brought in, with immediate effect, new regulations which relax the restriction on carrying over untaken holiday from one leave year into the next where the reason that holiday has not been taken is because of coronavirus.
It states the carry over will apply where, in any leave year is was "not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of the leave… as a result of the effects of coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)".
How long can holiday be carried over for?
Employees will be able to carry over untaken leave from the current leave year into the next two years.
Can we pay workers in lieu of holiday which has not been taken owing to coronavirus?
No. Not unless/until their employment is terminated.
However, if their employment is terminated at any point in the next two years after the current leave year, employees will be entitled to payment in lieu of any accrued holiday which was carried over from this year (because it was not able to be taken owing to coronavirus) in addition to any accrued but untaken holiday from the year in which their employment ended.
Can I still refuse leave that a worker wants to take?
Yes in general – you can refuse a workers' holiday request by serving a counter-notice at least as many calendar days before the date on which the holiday is due to start as the number of days being refused.
The new regulations do however limit your ability to do this where a worker is seeking to take holiday that has been carried over as a result of being unable to take it due to the effects of coronavirus – you will only be able to reject their request in respect of such leave where you have a "good reason to do so".
So what does this really mean?
Nothing has changed in respect of your ability to require employees to take annual leave, or to reject requests to do so in respect of this current leave year.
However, you no longer need to ensure that all workers take their full leave in the current year (so long as you are happy for them to carry this over). You also have some confidence that you will not necessarily have to accommodate huge tranches of annual leave within a short period of time once the current coronavirus restrictions are lifted (where you might currently have lots of holiday requests being cancelled and/or a downturn in requests to take holiday).
Where you have high requirements for work once restrictions are lifted, these amendment regulations might enable you to feel able to ask people to work a little more and carry over leave – but this always has to be balanced against the health and safety of your employees and the need to make sure that they have adequate rest where possible.
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