NI legislation amended allowing carry over of annual leave

An amendment to Working Time Regulations came into force in Northern Ireland on 24 April 2020 to allow for annual leave (up to 4 weeks) not taken as a result of coronavirus, to be carried over into the next two leave years.

What has changed?

Under the normal Regulations, employers are required to ensure that the minimum leave under the Working Time Directive of four weeks is taken in the leave year it relates to. This is important to ensure workers and employees get enough rest and remain healthy, both physically and mentally.

The amendment known as the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 amends the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 and allows for annual leave of up to four weeks (pro rata for part time staff) to be carried over into the next two leave years. This legislation reflects changes already in place in Great Britain.

In proposing the change in legislation Minister Diane Dodds noted that the amendment applies only to circumstances where workers are unable to take their leave as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

What does this mean for employers?

The amendment may not bring about any change for some organisations but will allow organisations under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday.  

Employers should still encourage leave to be taken in the leave year to enable workers to have a deserved break from work. However, particularly for keyworkers for example, where it may not possible to take leave in the normal way, this amendment relaxes the rules enabling up to four weeks to be carried into the next two leave years. 

Further information

The leglislation amendment can be found here and the Labour Relations Agency (NI) and ACAS (GB) have further guidance available on their websites. 


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