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Coronavirus: NHS and supermarket staff can delay leave as holiday rules torn up

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
A man walks outside the Excel Centre, London while it is being prepared to become the NHS Nightingale hospital as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues. (Simon Dawson/Reuters)

Workers will be able to delay their annual leave by up to two years, after the UK government tore up holiday rules to ease pressure on frontline services and supermarkets.

Workers currently risk losing their time off and employers risk fines if annual leave is not taken. The scale of the challenge facing the NHS, grocers, logistics firms and others has jolted Whitehall into rapid action to ensure staff can keep working while needed most.

Business secretary Alok Sharma announced workers in all sectors who have not taken all their leave entitlement will now be able to carry it over into 2021 or even 2022.

The new rules will allow up to four weeks of holiday to be delayed, easing pressure on employers to manage staff absences or workers to forfeit their leave.

Read more: Supermarkets create thousands of jobs as shoppers stockpile

Sharma said in a statement released on Friday: “Whether it is in our hospitals, or our supermarkets, people are working around the clock to help our country deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“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.”

The government said almost all UK workers are entitled to 28 days holiday, including bank holidays, each year. Most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years however, meaning workers lose their holiday if they cannot take it.

Employer also have an obligation to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement every year, and risk financial penalties if they fail to do so.

The changes will come through a reform of working time regulations, which apply to most workers including agency workers, shift workers and those on zero-hours contracts.

Read more: Confusion over who are key workers and shops that can open

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