Small store owners face another potential drain on resources as European judges have extended the amount of holiday staff can carry over into a new year.

A decision by the EU Court of Justice now means employees can carry over up to four weeks of leave to the following year, up from the previous eight days.

The new rules apply where staff have had sick leave and the employer cannot accommodate their holiday in the existing leave year. The UK government has proposed that employers be given the option to refuse requests if there is an 'over-riding business need' for that person to work.

In its response to the government's Modern Workplace consultation, the Association of Convenience Stores warned that changing holiday legislation would be a significant regulatory and cost burden for retailers.

Chief executive James Lowman said: "Employment costs are one of the highest outgoings for retailers, who have no protection for the income lost by having to find cover for sickness and holiday. We accept that the changes give employers the maximum flexibility possible, but it is of limited consolation to retailers faced with significant additional burden."