Will I be able to carry over annual leave as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?
On the 27 March 2020 the government introduced a temporary new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of coronavirus.
The changes may be applied in the following situations:
Ø Workers who are self-isolating or are too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year; and
Ø Workers who have had to continue working and could not take paid holiday.
Also employees that have been furloughed may also fall into this category if they cannot reasonably use the holiday in their holiday year. This is unlikely to apply to furloughed employees if an employer is giving them every opportunity to take their leave in the current holiday year.
If you have a provision in your contract that allows this to happen under normal circumstances, then this remains in place.
Do the changes apply to all employees?
The changes will apply to almost all types of workers, including agency workers, those who work irregular hours, and workers on zero hours contracts.
How do the changes work?
In Northern Ireland, under the current regulations, employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of leave (28 days including bank holidays) in a leave year. This is pro-rated for part time staff.
Annual leave of 5.6 weeks is broken down under the regulations to:
Ø 4 weeks can now be carried over for up to 2 years if it has not been reasonably practicable for a worker to take some, or all, of the holiday due to coronavirus.
Ø 1.6 weeks can still be carried over by agreement for 1 year but no further.
Some employers offer more than the statutory minimum. Any changes to this must be agreed in writing.
Can I be paid for holidays I don't take?
No. This holiday cannot be replaced with a payment in lieu unless the worker is leaving employment.
Does my leave year remain the same?
Yes. It may be January – December or April – May.
Can I take or change my annual leave?
If an employee no longer wants to take time off which was been previously booked, then the employer can still tell their employee to take the time off. To change the holiday the employee needs to get the employer’s agreement.
You can also ask your employer to change your annual leave dates, but there’s no legal obligation for your employer to agree.