In light of the ongoing disruption caused by the coronavirus, the Government has announced that workers will have extended rights to carry over their statutory annual leave entitlement in the wake of the crisis.

The new Regulations allow workers to carry over up to four weeks' annual leave entitlement into the next two annual leave years where they have not been able to take annual leave because of the coronavirus.  

This is a significant development because, prior to these changes, all statutory leave under the Working Time Regulations had to be taken in the leave year in which it was actually accrued. In addition, annual leave could also only be replaced by a payment in lieu where employment was being terminated. 

Under the new provisions, if it is "not reasonably practicable" for workers to take leave because of the pandemic or its wider implications, it can be carried forward and may be taken in the following two leave years. Similarly, workers are entitled to receive a payment in lieu of annual leave if their employment comes to an end before they have had a chance to take this carried over leave.

In addition, the new Regulations limit the ability of employers to prevent employees taking carried over annual leave.  Going forwards, employers will only be able to do this where they have a "good reason" for doing so.

Importantly, these new provisions do not apply to the "additional" 1.6 weeks' statutory leave under Regulation 13 A of the Working Time Regulations.

Practically, this is an important step for employees and employers, and will potentially prevent a rush of employees all wanting to take holiday once the lockdown has been lifted.