Generally, the law requires that all workers are entitled to at least 28 days’ holiday each year (including Bank Holidays) and a “use it or lose it” rule applies.
That means that, if a worker doesn’t take their full entitlement during the relevant holiday year, there is no statutory right to carry it over or receive a payment in lieu as an alternative. There are, of course, some exceptions to this general rule (for instance where an employee is on long term sick leave) and certain employers exercise their discretion to allow workers to carry over a small number of days into the next holiday year, but the overall premise is as set out above.
In a normal year, the rules around the carrying over of holiday are relatively uncontroversial, however, as we all know, 2020 is not a “normal” year. COVID-19 has resulted in drastic changes to the ways in which we are all working and, for some, this means working increased hours in crucial roles without an opportunity to take annual leave.
In order that those workers who are unable to take annual leave don’t forgo their entitlement, the Government has announced new rules to allow workers to carry over up to four weeks of their annual leave entitlement into the next two holiday years. These measures are intended not only to support workers but to also ease the burden on employers who would otherwise feel that they would either need to grant annual leave requests during the pandemic (which may leave them under-resourced) or, risk being short staffed as a result of an influx of holiday requests once the pandemic is over (and at the crucial time when they would be wanting to rebuild).
Initially, it looked like these changes would only apply to “key workers”, however, it no longer appears that this is the case. The new rules simply refer to “reasonable practicability”. That therefore means that, if it’s not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of their statutory leave entitlement as a result of the impact of COVID-19, they will be entitled to carry it over. This is seemingly a wide-ranging test, as it will include circumstances in which a worker hasn’t been able to take holiday as a result of the impacts of COVID-19 on the society and economy generally.