Under normal circumstances employees who do not take their statutory leave entitlement can only carry forward up to 5 days, in exceptional circumstances. The Working Time Directive also states statutory holiday entitlement (28 days) can only be carried forward between years if family leave or sickness have prevented employees from taking it. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government changed the rules on statutory holiday carry-over, allowing up to 20 days annual leave carry over in exceptional circumstances. This was intended to ensure that staff who were unable to take holiday during this period due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic werenot disadvantaged, and to help employers who were struggling to maintain full staffing during a period when many staff were ill, or unable to work due to self-isolating.
Under these temporary arrangements Heads of Department could approve carrying over up to 20 days leave to be taken within the next 2 years in the following circumstances only:
- where staff were unable to take their leave due to being required to carry out essential COVID-19 related work, for example those clinicians and research teams working directly on COVID-19, those staff who have joint responsibilities with the NHS and were required to increase their clinical activity, or those maintaining essential facilities, for example security services, payroll, some laboratory facilities, where there were additional demands because of COVID-19. It is for each department to determine this category of staff; it is the expectation that very few will fall into this category.
- Where staff have been asked to cover work for colleagues who are absent due to illness or self-isolation (this situation should be avoided wherever possible).
The normal arrangements for holiday carry over where sickness or family leave prevent holiday being taken are not affected by this change.