Holiday during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that employers manage their employees’ holiday entitlements sensibly and in accordance with the law.

Employers and workers should be as flexible as they can about requesting and approving holiday at this time and should:

  • be aware that this is a difficult time for workers and employers
  • consider everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing in relation to holidays
  • talk about plans to use or cancel holidays during coronavirus as soon as possible
  • listen to each other’s concerns about holidays, and welcome and suggest ideas and options.

Accruing, taking, and cancelling holiday

During 2020, as within any other year, workers are entitled to their full statutory (or contractual if this is higher) holiday entitlement.  Workers continue to accrue holiday at their usual rate, even if they have been on furlough during this time.

Workers, whether on furlough or not, can request, take, or cancel holiday in the usual ways, including Bank Holidays.  Employers can mandate a period of holiday for workers, providing that they give each worker at least twice as much notice as the length of holiday they want to mandate.

Employers can also cancel a worker’s previously requested holiday, providing that they give at least as much notice as the length of holiday time they wish to cancel.

Carrying over holiday

During coronavirus, it may not be possible for workers to take all of their holiday entitlement within the holiday year.

While employers should still encourage workers to take their holidays where possible, the government has introduced temporary legislation allowing workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ holiday entitlement into the next two holiday years.
This law applies where the worker does not take their holiday due to coronavirus, for example if:

  • they’re self-isolating or too ill to take holiday before the end of the year
  • they’ve had to continue working and could not be granted their holiday


Travelling abroad and self-isolation

The Scottish government currently has the power to place a blanket quarantine restriction on travelers arriving from certain countries, based on those countries coronavirus infection rates.

This means that travelers who have been in such countries in the last 14 days must self-isolate at home for 14 days immediately after arriving in the UK.  Failure to do so will attract a heavy fine.

The Scottish government allows for some countries to be exempt from these quarantine restrictions, but the list of countries who are exempt is subject to change, often at short notice.

It is possible that a traveler could leave for their holiday at a time when their destination country is exempt from quarantine restrictions upon return, but at the point of re-entry to the UK that country may have been removed from the exempt list.

Workers and employers should be mindful of:

  • the total holiday time needed when booking holiday to a country known to be subject to quarantine restrictions
  • the fact that an employer can refuse a holiday request if it is incompatible with business needs
  • how the business will manage if a worker has to self-isolate upon return from holiday if the worker’s holiday destination country was removed from the exempt list at short notice

An up-to-date list of currently exempted destination countries for Scotland is available here.