All full-time workers in the UK are entitled to a statutory minimum of 28 days (5.6 weeks) paid annual leave each year. This leave entitlement usually includes the eight statutory annual bank holidays. Part-time workers are entitled to annual leave on a pro-rata basis.
Understanding my annual leave entitlement
It should be noted that there is no legal right to take actually take leave on bank holidays – for some businesses like retail such days are treated as normal working days. As there is no legal right which automatically designates bank holiday dates as annual leave, the position will depend upon what is stipulated in an employee’s contract.
Some employers may offer additional days off (over and above the statutory minimum of 28 days)to workers as part of their contractual terms, but they cannot insist on them having less.
Workers who begin their employment after the holiday year has begun are entitled to a pro-rata number of days’ leave, which builds from month to month over the course of the first year of employment.
You do not need to serve a minimum period before becoming entitled to paid leave – it is a day one right – but, during the first year of employment you may only take annual leave which has accrued. After the first year of employment you may take your leave when you wish. So for example, you might wish to take two weeks in the first holiday month of the year which would be fine. However, you would not be able to do this in the first year of employment because you would not have accrued enough holiday entitlement.
Employers can and do specify when you may take time off – e.g. during a summer closure if you work at a school, or over the Christmas period if your industry effectively experiences a shut-down during the festive season.
Be aware that statutory holiday cannot be replaced with a payment in lieu by the employer, other than when the contract of employment is coming to an end.
Workers are generally expected to ‘use or lose’ the days they are entitled to over the course of a year. There are some exceptions to this – e.g. if the employee needs to take family leave or is off work due to sickness.
Workers can still accrue paid holiday if they are off sick or absent due to maternity (or other parental) leave.
Holiday pay is either based on salary, or on the last 12 weeks’ average earnings – should salary fluctuate due to the nature of the job. This can be more complicated for workers subject to a pay scale based on commission. However, they are not allowed to be financially disadvantaged as a result of choosing to use their leave entitlement.
Annual leave notice requirements for employers and workers
In addition to the potential for requesting some holiday entitlement be taken during an annual shut-down, such as the Christmas period, an employer may also require staff not to take holidays at certain times: for example, during August for workers in retail due to sales.
It is preferable for employers to give staff written notice of any such requirements or prohibitions. This may be included in employment contracts or staff handbooks, so it is always worth checking these documents before applying for leave.
Subject to any employer requirements, an individual is entitled to take their annual leave whenever they wish, so long as they comply with the necessary notice requirements. Most employers have a policy regarding annual leave requests. You should always check what this says to ensure you are complying with it.
In the absence of a specific policy, the basic legal position is that a workers who wants to take paid annual leave must give twice as many days’ notice in advance of the first day of leave as the leave’s duration. For example, if you wanted to use one week of your leave entitlement starting on 1 July, the latest you should request that leave is two weeks before: on 17 June. If you wanted to take a two-week holiday, you would have to give four weeks’ notice.
The relevant law is found in Regulation 15 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended).
Ability to vary annual leave requirements
The position set out above is the basic legal position in respect of the minimum statutory annual leave entitlement. An employer may agree other notice provisions in a collective agreement with a trade union, in individuals’ employment contracts or in another relevant agreement with staff.
It is therefore always worth checking to see if your employment contract (or other legally binding document) contains any such details of variations. Common examples include:
- requiring workers to give more days’ notice of their intention to take holiday;
- requiring a manager’s written approval of holiday dates in advance;
- specifying that only certain amounts of annual leave can be taken (e.g. no more than two weeks at a time);
- requiring workers serving notice to take all their accrued holiday during their notice period rather than be paid in lieu of unused holiday.
These are all legitimate variations which an employer may ask staff to agree to, so it is always best to ensure you fully understand your own employer’s requirements before booking a holiday. If you are in doubt, speak to the manager of your HR department first.