Many UK employers have found it incredibly challenging to manage absence allowances during the pandemic, particularly with the lack of information surrounding those on furlough. Can staff members carry over unused leave to the next calendar year? Are furloughed staff entitled to their full leave allowance?

In this article we hope to shed some light on the issues raised surrounding absence.

Carrying over unused leave

There has been much confusion caused by the coronavirus when it comes to leave allowances. The UK is in partial lockdown, so many of us have had to cancel our holiday plans. But where does that leave our holiday entitlement? Do we still have to take our booked annual leave days, or can we carry it over to the next calendar year?

Technically, any firm affected by COVID-19 can carry over unused leave for their staff members, not just key workers. The new measures allow workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19, to now carry it over into the next 2 leave years.

Furloughed staff – are they entitled to their full leave allowance?

1 in 4 UK workers have been furloughed from their job since the COVID-19 outbreak. For the millions now furloughed, the situation has certainly raised questions about their entitlements in the short term, particularly as we approach the summer months.

According to government guidance, anyone on furlough will continue to accrue leave as per their normal employment contract. Likewise, team members are entitled to take paid annual leave whilst on furlough, although employers are in their right to restrict when leave can be taken if there is a business need.

Staff not taking any leave because there is nowhere to go

With businesses shut, airlines grounded for months to come and lockdown restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, many of us have cancelled our holiday plans. By the end of the calendar year, it looks as though the majority of employees will have weeks worth of annual leave to use up, which could see multiple workers taking time off at the same time. It just won’t work.

It is possible for employers to enforce annual leave for employees, but they do need to adhere to certain rules as set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998). For enforced annual leave, employers should give the employee notice that is at least twice as long as the amount of time you request that they take. For example, a day of enforced annual leave requires 2 days’ notice at least.

However, forcing employees to take annual leave can be tricky for some employers. A less controversial approach would be to allow employees to carry over their annual leave allowance into the next 2 years, as outlined above.

We would love to hear your thoughts surrounding absence allowances during this pandemic, and what measures your employer has implemented, if any. Tag us on Twitter or LinkedIn.

For any queries, call Steve on 01252 636 070 or email