Workers who do not use all of their statutory annual holiday allowance because of the coronavirus pandemic will be allowed to carry days over for the next two years, the government has announced.
Ministers said on Friday that employees will be able to carry over up to four weeks of unused leave. It came as workers in key sectors work overtime and cancel holidays during the outbreak.
“Whether it is in our hospitals, or our supermarkets, people are working around the clock to help our country deal with the coronavirus pandemic,” said Alok Sharma, the business secretary.
“Today’s changes will mean these valued employees do not lose out on the annual leave they are entitled to as a result of their efforts, and employers are not penalised.”
Under existing rules, full-time workers are entitled to at least 28 days’ holiday including bank holidays each year, equivalent to 5.6 weeks.
The majority of this allowance cannot be carried over so employees lose it if they do not take it. Changes announced on Friday will apply to the Working Time Regulations which apply to most workers, including those employed through an agency and people on zero-hours contracts.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “From our fields to our supermarkets, we are hugely grateful to the many people working around the clock to keep the nation fed.
“At this crucial time, relaxing laws on statutory leave will help ensure key workers can continue the important work to keep supplies flowing, but without losing the crucial time off they are entitled to.”
He paid tribute to measures taken by the food industry to keep shelves stocked through the crisis. Supermarkets and logistics firms have increased the maximum daily shifts for lorry drivers from 10 hours to 11 hours to help ramp up deliveries after shoppers stripped many supermarkets bare.
The government’s latest move to support workers comes after a raft of measures including state funding for up to 80 per cent of wages for employees who have no work during the crisis.
On Thursday the chancellor extended that support to the self-employed, who can claim 80 per cent of the average of their last three years of profits.