Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

June 2020

Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements

As many industries progress towards a return to work the furlough scheme arrangements begin to change. So here we examine Covid-19 and holiday entitlements.

Flexible furlough and increased contributions from employers kick in as we move towards the October end of the job retention scheme. Thus attention is likely to turn to holidays & holiday entitlements.

Suitcase with labels on it - Covid-19 and Holiday Entitlements


A two-fold issue

What we have now is a two-fold issue:

  1. Employees are still focused on having a holiday this year. Yet with plans in a pandemic-induced tailspin with cancellations and postponements abounding, it’s not yet clear how holiday makers will fare.
  2. And the other side of that coin is that you must ensure you’ve got enough resources available to service your customers while letting employees to take their holiday entitlement.

It’s quite the conundrum.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that employees will want to save their holiday allowance for when they can travel again. Likewise, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that employers will prefer their employees to take holidays when business is slow – rather than as it gathers pace again. 

A Second Wave

Much of the above may become a mite academic. For a start, scientists continue to predict a second wave of the virus. Add to that the consequences of the anticipated surge in redundancies, that experts of a different kind are predicting, as the job retention scheme ends.

Also to contend with is the ever-changing landscape. The risk of local lockdowns and the potential for having to quarantine after your holiday is ever-present.

Confused? Well you might be!!

So – what IS the situation with holiday entitlements?

  • It’s been the case throughout, that anyone on furlough leave would continue to accrue holiday and have any holidays already booked credited to them. This, on the somewhat realistic assumption that they’d no longer need them.
  • It’s also, strictly speaking, been the case that employees could still take holiday, but have an entitlement to 100% of their salary in such circumstances.

The latter has been unlikely in the early stages of furlough leave. So now employers find themselves faced with managing holiday entitlements into a shorter leave year, while operating on a viable commercial level.

Amended Government Regulations

Many of you will already be aware of the amended regulations – Working Time -Coronavirus Amended – Regulations 2020.

The government guidance on this situation already provides for holiday entitlement that employees can’t take in the current leave year. It allows them to carry it over for up to two years.

The idea here was to address employers’ concerns about:

  1. A lack of resources or …
  2. … from a statutory perspective – a potential failure to ensure employees take the minimum of their holiday allowance under the working time regulations.

Though designed to help you, the employer, it’s possible for your employees to interpret this as an opportunity to carry leave forward if they don’t want to take any holiday. 

NB: it doesn’t apply to extra contractual holiday over and above the statutory minimum.

Government guidance places emphasis on taking every opportunity to take leave within the current leave year. 

The guidance also covers potential circumstances where the employer or employee may not be able to accommodate holiday in the current leave year. Ergo they’d be able to rely on the carry over provision. For further information on the specific circumstances please get in touch.

Arrangements already in place

Many of you will already have contractual or discretionary arrangements that allows your employees to carry over XX days holiday. And these may continue to be adequate.

If you find that you need to use quieter times of the year – or even what’s left of furlough leave – you have the legal right to ask employees to take holiday.

I say ‘ask’, because that would be the best practice way to achieve this. But you are entitled to place your employees on holiday for a defined period so long as you give the employee(s) involved the minimum notice period. This is: double the amount of time you want to place them on holiday for.

So, if you want them to take a full week on holiday you must give two weeks’ notice of the start of that holiday. Likewise, if only part of a week is involved, it’s still twice as much as the number of days involved.

This may not be straightforward if you still have employees on furlough leave. The commercial effect of having to find the extra 20% of salary – and more from September – may not be possible. But the option is there to manage any excess leave that has built up.   

There are other issues to consider if you want your employees to take their holiday during furlough leave or beyond. 

Go-Legal HR will advise you on all the ins and outs of this situation so get in touch now to find out more.

Government Advice

The Gov.UK website guidance provides an outline on the operation of holiday entitlement and pay during the coronavirus, but we’re happy to interpret that for you and advise accordingly.

Office: 01793 877787
Mobile: 07801 709945

Or drop an email to: [email protected]

See also our blog about Covid-19 and HR responsibilities