COVID-19 – Furlough and your annual leave


COVID-19 – Furlough and your annual leave


The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a vital lifeline for those employees who may have otherwise been facing redundancy – and employers who would otherwise have lost their staff.

And if you’re one of the millions of people who are now officially on the books as a ‘furloughed worker’, you might want to know how it affects your rights as an employee. It could feel strange to even think about taking annual leave for example, when for many of us, every day is the weekend.

So now the main hurdle of staying in work has been cleared, it’s a good time to read up on exactly what you’re entitled to now you’re on furlough, including your employee benefits like annual leave. Here’s all the latest information.

What will happen to my annual leave while I’m on furlough?

Don’t worry – you’re still entitled to have your holidays build up as usual, even if you’ve been furloughed. You’re still an employee on your company’s payroll, after all, so anything that’s in the terms and conditions of your employment agreement will stay the same – and that includes how your annual leave accrues.

Am I still entitled to paid holidays?

If you’re planning to take any holidays during furlough, the good news is that you’ll still be paid for any annual leave you choose to take. The great news is, even though you may only be currently paid 80% of your usual monthly salary, your employer has to top up this payment by 20% to the full rate of pay for every day of paid leave you decide to take off – even if you’re only on the minimum furlough pay.

Recent guidance issued by the government explains: “Working Time Regulations require holiday pay to be paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay or, where the rate of pay varies, calculated on the basis of the average pay received by the employee in the previous 52 working weeks. Therefore, if a furloughed employee takes a holiday, the employer should pay their usual holiday pay in accordance with the Working Time Regulations.”

I can’t take my holiday right now

Provisions have been made for those who are having to change their work patterns due to the coronavirus pandemic. In short, you won’t lose any holidays. The current Working Time Regulations have been adjusted to allow people to defer up to four weeks’ holiday to the next two years.

It’s reassuring to know you won’t miss out on leave if you:

  • Can’t currently work because you’re ill
  • Must work more frequently, because you’re a key worker
  • Are self-isolating in the house
  • Are on furlough and you can’t take any holidays

Your existing contract might already provide for carrying over your annual leave in some way. If that’s the case, you should still be able to do this – the new guidance probably won’t affect you. It’s always a good idea to read up on the specific terms and conditions detailed in your employment contract – especially at uncertain times like these.

Can I still use my employee benefits on furlough?

Thankfully, even if you’re not going into the office while you’re on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you can still take Maternity Leave on furlough, or claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you get ill. All the existing, statutory benefits are still there if you need them; after all, you’re still on the payroll, so you should still have the same employee rights. This also includes rights like protection against unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay.

The same applies to the amount of annual leave you’re entitled to. In the UK, this is a minimum of 5.6 weeks (or 28 days). If you work part-time, or you’re on a temporary contract, you’ll still get this, it will just be calculated pro-rata in line with how many days you typically work.

Can I be forced to take holidays during furlough?

Technically, your employer can ask you to take a holiday at any point. They might ask you to take some time off during furlough because it will mean when everyone goes back to work, you’ll be more available. Or, they might prefer not to have the expense of topping up 20% over and above your furlough just now to cover your paid leave. Either way, if you’ve decided to take some time off during furlough, it’s a good idea to talk it through with your employer first.

However, if your employer intends to ask you to take a holiday during furlough, or in fact, at any point in your working year, they’ll need to let you know at least double the holiday duration in advance. For instance, if they want you to take five full working days off, they have to let you know 10 days beforehand.

It also works that way if you have annual leave booked, and your employer wants you to work. They should let you know at least double the amount of time you have booked off in advance to cancel your holiday. They also have to explain why they’ve asked you to do so.

If you usually take bank holidays automatically as part of your annual leave, this will stay the same during furlough.

Have you been left with less money every month due to the COVID-19 outbreak? If you’re worried about paying off debts, you’re not alone. At Carrington Dean, we’re committed to offering professional, expert debt advice during these uncertain times. Give us a ring on 0808 253 1168 to speak to an advisor and take back control of your debts. 

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