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Managing Holidays and Holiday Carry Over during Coronavirus

COVID-19 has been causing issues for employers for almost ten months now and one issue that seems to be a cause for concern is the temporary change made to the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) to allow employees to carry forward up to 4 weeks’ of paid holiday for up to 2 years.

Due to the pandemic it was appreciated that it may not be possible for employees staff to use up all of their accrued 2020 annual holiday entitlement during the current holiday year, hence the change to the regulations.

This change applies to any employees who were not able to take all their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19, for example if they were self-isolating, too sick to take holiday or they had continued working and were not able to take paid holiday.  Individuals who were Furloughed are unlikely to need to carry forward statutory annual leave, as they should have been able to take holidays during any furlough period. However they may be able to carry over holiday if they’ve been unable to reasonably use their entitlement in the holiday year.

These changes were intended to give employers flexibility to allow workers to carry over leave at a time when granting annual leave could leave them short-staffed.  While this is the case for some ermployers it is not practical for every organisation to have significant numbers of employees amassing holidays to take at a later date unless absolutely necessary.

Encourage your staff to take their holidays

You should encourage employees to take their paid holiday and do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that they are able to take as much of their leave as possible in the year to which it relates. This applies whether staff are physically working or are on Furlough leave.   Where leave is carried forward, it is best practice to give staff the opportunity to take any holidays at the earliest practicable opportunity.

Meet or write to your staff explaining your plans for them to use or change any holidays as soon as possible.

  • discuss why holidays may need to be taken or cancelled
  • listen to any concerns from staff
  • welcome and suggest ideas for other options and
  • consider everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing

Ask employees to take holidays at a specific time.

You have the right to tell employees when to take holidays but cannot do this for anyone on sick leave or family leave, for example maternity leave.

If you need to tell staff that they must take a holiday you must give them notice which is at least twice the period of leave that you require them to take. So for example if you want them to take 5 days leave you must give them at least 10 days’ notice

Employees who are on furlough can also be required to put in a request for annual leave by a specific date.  If they fail to do so you can insist on the days they must take leave but you must give them the same notice as outlined above.  Please remember that, although you can claim back 80% of their wages from HMRC for any such period, you will be required to make their pay up to 100%  for any period whilst on holiday.

Refuse an employee’s request to cancel a holiday.
If an employee has pre-booked a holiday and then later decides to cancel it, for example because their hotel cancelled the booking. You can insist they still take the time off, but it’s good practice to get agreement from the employee, but you should consider the individual’s circumstances in order to avoid potential issues.

Cancelling pre-booked holiday
You can cancel an employee’s pre-booked paid holiday perhaps because this no longer fits in with your plans. In this case you must give staff at least the same number of days’ notice as the original holiday request. So if an employee has booked a 5 day holiday, you must tell them at least 5 days before the holiday starts that it’s cancelled. However please do consider this carefully to avoid causing upset, explain why you need to do this and try to resolve any issues.

Key steps to manage holiday entitlements

As you can see if is important to proactively manage holiday entitlements so that you are not left short-staffed after the pandemic with lots of staff wanting to take holiday at the same time:

  1. Monitor individual holiday accrual
  2. Encourage staff to take their holiday being mindful of the benefits of maintaining good mental health and wellbeing for employees and the importance of rest;
  3. If necessary, consider requiring employees to take their holiday at certain times; and
  4. If you have employees on furlough consider how you will approach the issue of holiday going forward.
  5. Keep staff informed by meeting or writing to them to explain your plans

We have a library of letters available for you to issue out to your staff and are here to help you manage any problems you may be having, so please get in touch if you need any assistance.


Sarah Goddard
Phone: (01229) 480676

Mobile (07715) 822216


Chrissy Tait
Phone: (01229) 821270

Mobile (07725) 735581



DISCLAIMER: The materials in this guidance are provided for general information purposes and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. Turnstone HR cannot be responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any action or decision taken as a result of using the guidance. You should consult with us first for advice where appropriate


“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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