NewsUK Employees: 10 Key Things to Understand About Your Legal Holiday Rights

UK Employees: 10 Key Things to Understand About Your Legal Holiday Rights

Holiday entitlement is an important workplace right that all employees in the UK are legally entitled to. However, the rules and regulations surrounding holiday can often be confusing for both employers and employees. To help clarify some of the common questions around holiday entitlements, here are UK Employees: 10 Key Things to Understand About Your Legal Holiday Rights

1. The Statutory Minimum Holiday Entitlement is 5.6 Weeks

The statutory minimum holiday entitlement in the UK is 5.6 weeks, which is equivalent to 28 days for someone working a 5-day week. This includes bank/public holidays. Employers can choose to give more holiday above this minimum if they wish. So if you work a standard Monday-Friday, 9-5 job, you are entitled by law to a minimum of 28 days paid holiday per year on top of the normal bank/public holidays.

2. Part-Time Employees are Entitled to the Same Holiday Pro-Rata

Part-time employees are entitled to the same 5.6 weeks pro-rata as full-time employees. For example, if you work 3 days per week, you are entitled to 16.8 days paid holiday per year (3/5 of 28 days).

So part-time employees cannot be treated less favorably just because they work fewer hours. Their holiday entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis in proportion to the hours/days worked.

3. Holiday Entitlement Starts Accruing Immediately

Employees start accruing their legal holiday entitlement from the very first day of work – there is no minimum service requirement.

Holiday accrues on a monthly basis – at the end of the first month, an employee has accrued 1/12th of their total annual entitlement, after 6 months they have accrued 6/12ths and so on. If an employee leaves midway through the year, they are still entitled to be paid for any accrued holiday that they haven’t taken.

4. Employers Can Set the Dates When Leave Can Be Taken

While employees have a legal right to paid holiday, employers can still control when it is taken. For example, they can:

  • Set certain times of year when no holiday can be taken (e.g. busy periods)
  • Make employees take holiday on certain dates (e.g. Christmas shutdown)

However, they must still make sure workers can take their full legal entitlement at other times. Refusing all requests for holiday would break the law.

5. Holiday Entitlement Continues to Accrue During Maternity/Paternity Leave

An important protection for employees is that holiday entitlement keeps building up during maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave. So you still accrue your full 5.6 weeks (pro-rata for part timers) even while on family-related leave. This holiday can be taken before or after the maternity/paternity leave.

6. Employees Must Give Notice Before Taking Leave

Employees have to give their employer notice before taking holiday – usually double the length of leave. So if an employee wanted to take 10 days off, they would need to give at least 20 days’ notice to their employer. This allows the business to plan around the employee’s absence.The contract may specify other notice periods. But in general, the more notice given the better.

7. Up to 8 Days’ Leave Can Be Carried Over to the Next Year

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Employees are allowed to carry over up to 8 days of unused holiday entitlement over into the next holiday year. This only applies if it is permitted by an agreement such as a contract.So for example, if an employee was entitled to 28 days holiday but only took 20, they could carry over the 8 days to the following year. This gives a bit more flexibility.

8. Holiday Entitlement Applies From Day 1, Even for Short Contracts

Even very short contracts and temporary jobs come with holiday entitlement rights. As soon as someone starts work, they immediately begin to accrue leave rights. So even if someone is only employed for a couple of weeks or months, they are still legally entitled to paid holiday on a pro-rata basis – there is no minimum service requirement.

9. Holiday Pay Should Match Normal Earnings

To make sure holiday pay is fair, it should match what the employee would normally earn. So it would include regular overtime, commissions and other payments related to the job.

The employer cannot simply pay basic salary during holiday periods or pay less than the employee’s normal earnings. This would break rules on holiday pay.

10. Settling Disputes Over Holiday Rights

If an employee has an issue over holiday entitlement or pay, the first step is to try resolving it informally with the employer. Employees can also involve a trade union rep. If this does not fix the problem, the employee can lodge an ‘early conciliation’ request with ACAS. If still unresolved, the final step would be an employment tribunal claim for breach of holiday rights.

So in summary, while holiday entitlement seems straightforward on paper, sticking to the rules requires employers to plan carefully around staff leave.

Likewise, employees should understand their rights and notify their employer appropriately before booking time off. But if both sides follow the guidance around leave entitlements and pay, it helps avoid stressful disputes further down the line.

Calculating Holiday Entitlement

In addition to the rules around taking holiday, a common area of confusion is how to actually calculate an employee’s leave.There are special calculations for:

  • Part-time staff
  • Part years (those who join or leave midway through)
  • Irregular hours workers

Fortunately, there is an online holiday entitlement calculator that works most of this out automatically. You simply enter the start date, end date, hours worked etc and it tells you the entitlement.

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Some key points:


Part-time holiday allowance is calculated on a pro-rata basis based on the employee’s normal work pattern.

For example:

  • Bob works 3 days per week
  • The full-time equivalent holiday entitlement is 28 days
  • So Bob is entitled to 16.8 days paid holiday per year (3/5 of 28 days)

Part Years

For employees who join or leave partway through the holiday year, entitlement is pro-rated based on the proportion of the leave year worked.

For example:

  • Alice joins a company on 1st July
  • The company holiday year runs January 1st to December 31st
  • As Alice joined halfway through, she is entitled to 14 days holiday for the remainder of that leave year (half of the full 28 days)

Irregular Hours

For workers with irregular hours, holiday entitlement accrues in proportion to hours worked.

For example:

  • Toni works irregular hours for a retailer
  • In an average week Toni works 15 hours
  • A full timer doing a 37 hour week would get 28 days holiday
  • So Toni accrues holiday based on the proportion of hours she works – 15/37 of 28 days = 11.5 days

So in summary, the key is that leave entitlement accrues equally for all workers based on the hours/days they have worked – both fulltimers and part-timers alike.

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