Changes to regulations mean that workers will now be able to carry over untaken annual leave into the next two leave years.  This applies where they have been unable to take leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In this article Andrew Brierley, Briars Group Chairman, takes a look at the regulations, their practical application, and what they mean for employers.

OK, so let’s start with the technical bit…

The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (Regulations) will permit a maximum of up to four weeks of unused leave (i.e. the four weeks granted under regulation 13 WTR 1998) to be carried over into the next two leave years, where it was ‘not reasonably practicable’ for a worker to take some or all of that leave in the leave year as a result of the effects of COVID-19 (including effects on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society).

So what does this mean in practice?

Well the statement is quite clear, but perhaps benefits from a little focus… If the employer can’t grant holiday to workers, for reasons directly related to Covid-19, then those holidays can be taken over the next two years. So, for example, if essential services have to continue to be provided but the employer doesn’t have sufficient workers – perhaps because many are self-isolating due to Covid-19 symptoms – then they can refuse to grant holidays at that time. You certainly wouldn’t want to be denied access to hospital critical care, just because the doctors were on holiday!

Has anything really changed?

For reputable employers, not really. The Regulations will ease the obligation which businesses are under to make sure that workers use up their statutory amount of annual leave in any one year. However, at a practical level all reputable employers would allow workers to defer holidays if they were unable to grant them because of unforeseen operational reasons. There are, however, less scrupulous employers that may be tempted to simply refuse holidays, and those workers could lose them without the benefit of this legislation.

Can employees choose to defer their holidays?

No, except where their contract of employment allows them to. It is of paramount importance for physical and mental wellbeing that employees take their minimum statutory holidays within each holiday period. It would also be a logistical nightmare for the employer if all staff, or groups of key workers, decided to take no holiday one year, and they all take double holiday the next.

Your team at Briars are here to help with any questions that you may have concerning these regulations and the issues surrounding them; please do not hesitate to contact us here at info@briarsgroup.com.