Demystifying post-pandemic holiday entitlement and sick leave

Thursday 18th August 2022

During the pandemic, many companies had to make difficult decisions around staffing. This included altering how employees operated in their roles and where they worked; some were furloughed and couldn’t work at all. As a result, many workers were prevented from taking their holiday entitlement during this period.

Rules around sickness were also changing; testing positive for COVID or being close to someone who had, meant a legal requirement to self-isolate for 2 weeks was put in place.

Due to the effect of these changes, rules around holiday entitlement and sick pay were temporarily altered:

Holiday Entitlement

On 27th March 2020, the government announced that there would be a relaxation of the rule that allows employees to only carry untaken holidays to the following year. Workers from 2020 would now be able to carry over leave that was not reasonably practicable to take due to COVID-19, into the next 2 leave years, 2021 and 2022.

This applied to the 28 days including bank holidays and was implemented to avoid the financial penalty currently imposed on employers who don’t ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in the same year. It also enabled them to ask employees to work more, especially in industries where labour was short - mainly healthcare and food. It also meant that employees didn’t lose out on the holiday entitlement they were unable to take due to COVID restrictions.

The Working Time Regulations of 1998 was amended and applied to most workers including agency staff and those on zero hours contracts. Workers can also now receive payments in lieu of holiday for this period which has previously been disallowed.

Sick Leave

Sick leave changes are now back to normal but prior to 24th March 2022, if you were self-isolating for reasons associated with COVID because…

  1. You had COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive
  2. Someone in your household had symptoms or tested positive
  3. Had been told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace
  4. Had been advised by a doctor to stay at home before a surgical procedure

…you would receive statutory sick pay for up to 2 weeks.

However, from 24th February 2022 the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test, or from being close to someone who tested positive, was lifted and the rules around claiming SSP for self-isolation due to COVID changed on 24th March 2022, meaning any claims for SSP due to forced self-isolation had to be submitted by this date.

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