Updates to the Working Time Regulations 1998
While some existing annual leave policies may or may not allow employers to carry over annual leave, employers should note that the government has amended the Working Time Regulations 1998 to provide more flexibility in relation to annual leave requests, resulting from COVID-19. The legislation allows workers to carry over up to four weeks' annual leave into the next two holiday years, where it has not been reasonably practicable for employees to take holiday as a result of the effects of coronavirus.
The amended regulations also provide that where a worker leaves employment, in calculating the payment in lieu of leave, any untaken carried-over leave should be included in the calculation.
Furthermore, the amended regulations introduce a restriction on an employer’s right to refuse leave on particular days. The employer must now have ‘good reason’ not to allow a worker to take any carried-over leave. The definition of ‘good reason’ has not been provided, but it is likely that it could be based on business grounds rather than any other reason.
From a practical perspective, it should be remembered that UK statutory annual leave is composed of two elements. These are: the statutory four weeks of leave provided by the WTR and the eight public holidays granted by the UK government, making the total statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks. The present amendment applies only to the four weeks of annual leave and does not allow for any of the additional annual leave (1.6 weeks) to be carried forward. In practice, employers may not wish to make this distinction.