Cancel Annual Leave: Coronavirus

By Amanda Beattie
30 Apr 2020

It’s a difficult time for everyone during the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses face a complex task of managing productivity requirements alongside your employee needs.

During the national lockdown, the cancellation of annual leave for key workers by an employer for coronavirus is a real consideration.

You may even receive requests from your members of staff regarding holiday days (annual leave). Some may wish to cancel their booked days, especially if they’re already on furlough.

If they do, what are your rights as an employer? You can contact us on 01455 858 132 for help with making a decision.

Or you can read the rest of our guide, which explains the current regulations from the UK government.

Can annual leave be cancelled during coronavirus?

You don’t have to agree to cancel annual leave, it’s up to you as an employer to decide.

But employees may now suddenly find themselves unable to take a booked slot of annual leave. So, after cancelling flights and holidays, they may ask you if they can also cancel their time off altogether. 

Unless it states in their contract of employment they can do so, you can make a decision either way.

First, you must take into consideration the needs of your business. If it’s not a issue for you, then you can agree to it.

It’s also a good idea to consider the employee’s circumstances when making a decision.

But the main issue to remember is coronavirus and how it’s affecting your business. If there’s an increase in demand for your business, then you may find the cancellation of holidays suits your needs.

However, if you’re facing a decrease in demand for work, then you may ask for your employee to take the time off.

Get expert support from Croner

During the coronavirus pandemic, we’re here to help businesses during this difficult time.

With the regular clearance of new legislations, it’s essential your business stays up to date with changing employment laws in the UK.

We have over 75 years’ experience guiding small and medium sized businesses through changing HR and employment law practices.

As business experts, we can help you deal with the pressures of the coronavirus outbreak, lockdown rules, remote working, and any other queries you have.

Get in touch for immediate support: 01455 858 132.

Employee and employer rights to cancel annual leave

Although you and your employees have rights regarding annual leave, during these unprecedented circumstances you may need to put your business first.

So, can an employer cancel annual leave? Yes, if you provide the correct, legally required, legal notice.

That’s explained in the Working Time Regulations 1998 under regulation 15. So, under your employer rights you can cancel annual leave—you just have to provide enough notice.

But you should also consider your employees’ rights during this time.

You may get approached with an annual leave cancellation request by an employee. And the reason being due to coronavirus disruptions.

Reasons for that may be down to flight cancellations, meaning the employee can no longer go on holiday.

And if working from home an employee cancels annual leave, you can then review the situation and make a decision.

You may decide it’s a good show of support for staff during this time to allow them to arrange. But, again, you should consider your business needs first. 

And it's up to you—if you require employees to work, then you have the legal right to reject their request.

Ultimately, you should remain flexible in your approach to annual leave.

In these unprecedented times, business practice requires it—this is so you can operate as a business, while supporting your workforce.

Key workers and annual leave during coronavirus

The cancellation of annual leave for key workers by employers during coronavirus is allowed.

Normally, staff can’t carry that over to different years—they must use it all. Or, in some businesses, trade remaining holiday days for wages.

But now the government has a regulation that states annual leave allocation can carry over into 2021. These rules help to support important industries during the pandemic.

Now, employees who haven’t taken all of their permitted holiday time can carry this over to the next two leave years.

Most staff in the UK have entitlement to 28 days holiday time (which includes the bank holidays of each given year).

So staff can carry up to four weeks of leave they didn’t use into the next two leave years after this one, which will cover 2021 and 2022.

Remember, staff already reserve the right to request to carry over the remaining 1.6 weeks, but this is up to you as an employer.

It’s also your decision if you want to permit staff to carry over contractual leave.

This helps alleviate the stress on businesses right now, meaning you can request them to work without taking their holidays.

But under the reassurance they can then take this time off in the years ahead.

Expert advice

We can help you with any coronavirus enquiry. We have an expert team available on a 24/7 phone line. Get in touch for assistance: 01455 858 132 .

About the Author

Amanda Beattie

Amanda represents corporate clients and large public bodies, including complex discrimination and whistleblowing claims. Amanda also drafts and delivers bespoke training regarding all aspects of employment law, including ‘mock tribunal’ events; in addition she also frequently drafts employment law articles for various publications for Croner and their clients.

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