Q: I have been working from home since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. As many other staff were furloughed, I have literally not taken any time off except for bank holidays, in order to cover their jobs.
By Christmas I was exhausted and decided to add three weeks of my unused annual leave onto the bank holiday. However, my manager said I had to return to work on January 4th as all holiday should have been taken by December 31st. Surely in these extraordinary circumstances some provision should be made for carrying annual leave over into the next year?
A: On 27th March 2020, the government announced that workers who had not taken all their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 would be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years. These changes amended the Working Time Regulations that apply to most workers, including agency workers and those who work irregular hours or are on zero contracts.
Almost all full-time workers are entitled to a minimum 28 days’ annual leave per year, which includes statutory bank holidays. Prior to the March announcement this entitlement could not be carried over into the following leave year, so workers who failed to take all their annual leave in one year would lose the days they had not taken. There was however an obligation on the part of their employer to ensure workers took their full annual entitlement and the employer could be fined if they did not.
The changes introduced in March were designed to allow businesses more flexibility and help them to stay in business whilst coping with what had the potential to be devastating effects of COVID-19. In particular, it was necessary to keep key industries operational. If you are still refused permission to carry over your unused leave after pointing out the above to your manager, you should seek legal advice.
Article January 2021
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