Staff will be able to carry annual leave over for the next two years.
NHS trusts across the country are starting to cancel the planned leave of front-line healthcare workers.
While some NHS trusts are reportedly enforcing a blanket ban on annual leave, others are taking a more light-handed approach of asking staff to voluntarily cancel leave.
Services are taking this unprecedented move to ensure hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries are appropriately staffed throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
Healthcare staff are warning that the cancelation of such leave could lead to burnout and further place patients at risk.
Verity, a senior nurse from London, told NursingNotes; “Staff are already staying late and working extra shifts. Taking away this important downtime will break them. We need to acknowledge the importance of the mental and physical health of all our front-line staff during this difficult time.”
She added; “Would you want a tired, overworked nurse or doctor making life or death decisions about you?”
Working Time Regulations.
According to a guide on annual leave published by the Royal College of Nursing, staff have “no legal right to choose when to take your annual leave; your employer will need to balance your right to take leave against the needs of the service and to maintain appropriate staffing levels.”
“Your employer can refuse your request for annual leave, but they must notify you of this within a period equivalent to the period of leave.”
For workers who already have leave approved, the guide advises this can be canceled but “only when it is reasonable” and encourages staff to check their contracts of employment.
Last week, the government introduced changes to Working Time Regulations ensuring workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said; “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.”