These are your rights around annual leave and what you can carry over to next year

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:23 pm
The government has introduced some new legislation regarding annual leave. (Photo: Shutterstock)
The government has introduced some new legislation regarding annual leave. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Annual leave is piling up for many employees, with coronavirus putting a hold on holiday plans across the country. 

The situation has left some wondering about their rights around holiday, what their employer can demand, and if annual leave can be carried over to next year. 

Am I entitled to the same amount of holiday as in previous years?

Your annual leave entitlement should not have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the UK, almost all workers (including those on irregular hours contracts and zero hour contracts) are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year, including bank holidays. Your own contract may entitle you to more than this, however.

Self-employed people are exempt from this requirement.

Your entitlement remains the same, even if you have been furloughed as a result of the government’s job retention scheme, and you can request and take holiday in the normal way if your employer agrees on dates. 

Furloughed workers are entitled to their usual pay in full for any holiday they take.

Can my employer ask me to take holiday at a certain time?

Employers can require you to take holiday, but the notice period for doing this must be double the length of the holiday required. Employers can ask with less notice than this, but need an employee’s permission.

Generally, if the request is reasonable and non-discriminatory, you can’t usually turn down your employer’s instruction to take leave. 

It’s important to discuss holiday plans with your employer as soon as possible to make sure both parties are happy with the arrangements in place.

Can my employer cancel a holiday?

Similarly, employers can also cancel your holiday, if they give you enough notice. The notice period for doing this must be the length of the planned holiday.

You should be able to take this annual leave at another time in the year, in order to fulfill your entitlement.

Can I carry holidays over into next year?

The 5.6 weeks of statutory holiday entitlement is split into four weeks and 1.6 weeks.

If a written agreement is made between you and your employer, the 1.6 weeks can be carried forward into the following leave year. Generally, the other four weeks can’t be carried into future leave years, unless you have been on maternity leave or off sick.  

However, the government has passed new legislation which allows workers to carry holiday forward where the impact of coronavirus has not made it reasonably practicable to take it within the year. 

Where it has not been reasonably practical for a worker to take some or all of the four weeks of holiday, whatever wasn’t taken may be carried over into the following two years.

When calculating how much may be taken forward, employers have to give employees the opportunity to take any of the leave that they can’t carry forward before the end of the year.

However, it’s likely your employer will encourage you to take as much leave as possible in the year to which it relates.

Where leave is carried forward, it’s best practice for your employer to give you the opportunity to take it as early in the year as possible. Check with your employer to see what their policy is about carrying holidays forward.

What if I’m furloughed?

It’s unlikely that workers on furlough will need to carry forward annual leave as they will usually be able to take it while furloughed.

If taking holiday while furloughed, you should be paid the correct, full holiday pay. It’s likely this will be higher than the rate covered by government grants, so your employer will have to make up the difference.

If they are unable to fund the difference, this would make it not reasonably practical to take your leave, and you should therefore be allowed to carry annual leave forwards.

For more information on your annual leave rights during coronavirus, please see the government website.