Holiday and leave during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Holiday entitlement

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In most situations, employees and workers should use their paid holiday ('statutory annual leave') in their current leave year. This is 5.6 weeks in the UK.

This is important because taking holiday helps people:

  • get enough rest
  • keep healthy, both physically and mentally

Being flexible about holiday

Employers, employees and workers should be as flexible as they can about holiday during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It's a good idea to:

  • talk about any plans to use or cancel holiday as soon as possible
  • discuss why holiday might need to be taken or cancelled
  • listen to any concerns, either from staff or the employer
  • welcome and suggest ideas for other options
  • consider everyone's physical and mental wellbeing
  • be aware that it's a difficult time for both employers and staff

If someone is on furlough

Employees or workers who are on furlough can request and take their holiday in the usual way, if their employer agrees. This includes bank holidays.

They should receive holiday pay for the days they're taking as holiday, based on what they would usually earn if they were working.

If their holiday pay would usually be higher than their pay while they're on furlough, the employer must pay the difference. The employer can continue to claim through the furlough scheme for this time.

Carrying over holiday

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may not be possible for staff to take all their holiday entitlement during their holiday year.

Employers should still be encouraging workers and employees to take their paid holiday. Employees and workers should also make requests for paid holiday throughout their holiday year, if possible.

In 2020, the government introduced a law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks' statutory paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of COVID-19.

Reasons for this could include:

  • they're self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year
  • they've had to continue working and could not take paid holiday

They may also be able to carry over holiday if they've been on furlough and cannot reasonably use all their holiday in their holiday year.

Read more examples of carrying over paid holiday because of COVID-19 on GOV.UK.

Some employers will already have an agreement about how much paid holiday staff can carry over, based on consultation with a trade union or employee representatives. If there is already an agreement to carry over more than 4 weeks' paid holiday, the law introduced in 2020 will not affect this.

If an employee or worker leaves their job or is dismissed and has carried over paid holiday because of COVID-19, any untaken paid holiday must be added to their final pay ('paid in lieu').

Bank holidays

Bank holidays are usually part of the legal minimum 5.6 weeks' paid holiday.

Employers can still require employees and workers to take paid holiday on a bank holiday, unless they're off sick. They must give employees or workers notice.

Employees and workers can also ask to take a day's paid holiday on a bank holiday. If the employer agrees to them doing this, they must get holiday pay based on what they would usually earn if they were working.

If employees and workers are not sure if bank holidays need to be taken as paid holiday, they should:

  • check their contract
  • talk to their employer

If someone cannot take a day off for a bank holiday because of COVID-19, they should use the holiday at a later date in their leave year.

If this is not possible, bank holidays can be included in the 4 weeks' paid holiday that can be carried over. This holiday can be taken at any time over the next 2 holiday leave years.

Carrying over more than 4 weeks' paid holiday

Some employers may already have an agreement in place that says extra holiday can be carried over (more than the 4 weeks' paid holiday). If they do not, an employer can decide whether they'll allow this.

Extra holiday may include:

  • the remaining 1.6 weeks of statutory annual leave
  • holiday that's more than the legal minimum

Employees and workers should check their employment contract or talk to their employer to find out what they’re entitled to.

It's important to remember that in most situations, employees and workers should use their holiday throughout the year so they get enough rest.

Reaching an agreement

If the workplace has a recognised trade union, or there are employee representatives who work with the employer on these matters, the employer should involve them in agreeing changes.

If any agreement is made, it's a good idea for it to be in writing.

Employers should get legal advice if they're not sure whether to allow extra holiday to be carried over.

If someone wants to change their holiday

An employee may no longer want to take time off they'd previously booked, for example because their hotel cancelled the booking. Their employer can insist they still take the time off, but it's good practice to get agreement from the employee.

If the employee wants to change when they take this time off, they'll need to get agreement from their employer.

Requiring staff to take or cancel holiday

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday, as long as they give the right amount of notice.

They cannot do this, however, for any employees or workers who are on:

  • sick leave
  • family leave, for example maternity leave

If an employer needs to tell staff when to take holiday

An employer could, for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.

If the employer decides to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take.

For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

Cancelling pre-booked holiday

Employers can also cancel pre-booked paid holiday. If they decide to do this, they must give staff at least the same number of days' notice as the original holiday request.

For example, if an employee has booked 5 days holiday, the employer must tell them at least 5 days before the holiday starts that it's cancelled.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned and cause upset. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to do this
  • try and resolve anyone's worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
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Please do not include any personal information, for example email address or phone number. Unfortunately we cannot respond to individual requests for information. If you need help, call our helpline on 0300 123 1190