6 April 2020

Annual leave: a relaxation of the rules due to Coronavirus

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (the “WTR”) have been amended so that workers can carry over four weeks’ holiday entitlement for up to two years if they have been prevented from taking it due to the effects of the current coronavirus epidemic.

Under the WTR, workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ annual leave (i.e. 28 days) or a pro-rated amount for part-time workers. This entitlement is made up of:

  • four weeks’ core leave, which must normally be taken in the holiday year in which it accrues; and
  • 1.6 weeks’ additional leave, which can, if the parties agree, be carried over to the next holiday year.

The recent changes to the WTR mean that where a worker is unable to take their core leave in the current holiday year due to the effects of coronavirus, they can carry that leave forward and take it in the following holiday year or even the year after that.

In the current situation, with restrictions on travel, office closures and guidance on self-isolation and shielding, it is clear that many workers’ holiday plans this year will be adversely affected and the relaxation of the rules will allow them some flexibility as to when they can take that holiday time. It will also make it easier for employers to ensure operational continuity when business returns to normal (i.e. they will not be forced to ensure that all staff take their four weeks’ leave later this year).

Please note, it is possible for employers to deny workers the right to roll over their leave, but they will need a ‘good reason’ for doing so. This has not yet been defined and we await further guidance.

If you have any queries on annual leave or the employment law implications of coronavirus more generally, please contact Joe Beeston, Senior Employment Associate in our Employment team.


The current global crisis is evolving rapidly, and the rules and guidance for individuals, companies and other entities to manage its implications are similarly fast moving. Notes such as this may be out of date almost as soon as they are published. If you have any questions prompted by this article or on any other matter relevant to you, please get in touch with your usual contact at Forsters.

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