Business Secretary Alok Sharma has announced measures to amend the Working Time Regulations (the Regulations) to allow annual leave to be carried over into the next 2 years. 

Under existing rules, full-time workers are entitled to at least 28 days’ holiday including bank holidays each year, equivalent to 5.6 weeks. Currently, holiday entitlement cannot generally be carried between leave years (except for certain limited circumstances), meaning workers lose their holiday if they do not take it. 

The Regulations will be amended to allow up to 4 weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next 2 leave years where it is not reasonably practicable for workers to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

This will ease the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year, which carries a financial penalty for any employer failing to do so. 

The balance of 1.6 weeks' statutory leave will not be affected (although it can be carried over for up to a year by agreement under existing law).

Mr Sharma commented:

"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."

This measure is designed to both protect workers' rights to paid holiday and ease the pressure on businesses struggling to cope with the impact of COVID-19. 

Businesses will need to carefully manage how workers take their holiday both from a health and safety perspective and in order to avoid a large number of workers all requesting to take their holiday at the same time.