Employment Update – COVID-19: Amendments to the Working Time Regulations

In light of the challenges presented to businesses from the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) the government announced emergency legislation in the form of the Working Time (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 (“the 2020 Regulations”).

The 2020 Regulations were brought into force with effect from 26 March 2020 and allow workers to carry over up to four weeks’ annual leave into the next two leave years.

Pam Sidhu, Senior Associate Solicitor at Wilkes, considers what effect this will have on businesses.

What are the changes and what does this mean?

The 2020 Regulations amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”) and ease the requirements on businesses to ensure that workers take their annual leave in any one year. Under Regulation 13, employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks’ annual leave each year pursuant to EU law. Regulation 13(9) WTR provides that this period of leave may be taken in the leave year only in respect of which it is due; it may only be replaced by a payment in lieu where the worker’s employment is terminated.

The 2020 Regulations amend Regulation 13 of the WTR to permit the carry-over of any of such untaken leave where it was not reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year “as a result of the effects of the coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)“. Carried-over leave may be taken in the two leave years immediately following the leave year in respect of which it was due.

The 2020 Regulations also limit an employer’s ability to refuse an employee taking leave on a particular day. Under the WTR, employers were able to require a worker to not take leave on a particular day provided notice was given in accordance the WTR. However, the 2020 Regulations introduce a new requirement that employers will only be able to refuse leave where the employer has “good reason” to do so.

These changes do not apply to the additional 1.6 weeks’ annual leave granted by Regulation 13A of the WTR, which can still be carried forward one leave year (but not further) through an agreement between workers and their employers.

Pam Sidhu explains, “Under the WTR, there is an obligation on employers to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year and failure to do so could result in a financial penalty. The 2020 Regulations are aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. These measures will also provide workers with the security that they can carry over holiday into the next two leave years, where it is not possible or practicable for them to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus.” 

For any further guidance on this issue or any other Employment related matter, please contact Pam Sidhu on [email protected] or 0121 710 5815.

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