Paid annual leave

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Most people at work have a statutory right to 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave a year. You may be entitled to more than this under your contract.

The amount of leave you will be entitled to will also depend on whether you are part time or full time.

Holiday rights - basic facts about your entitlements

  • you are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave - 28 days for someone working five days a week
  • You start building up your holiday entitlement as soon as you start work
  • You do not have an automatic right to take leave on bank holidays or public holidays or to be paid enhanced rates of pay for working on bank holidays or public holidays
  • Leave taken on Bank holidays and public holidays can count towards your minimum holiday entitlement (unless your contract of employment says otherwise)
  • You have a right to be paid your normal rate of pay while you are on holiday
  • Depending on your contract, you may need to give notice before taking leave and your employer can also limit when you can take leave
  • If you are on maternity, paternity or adoption leave you are still entitled to paid annual leave
  • When you finish your job you must be paid for any holiday you have not taken

These rights apply to all employees and workers from the first day of employment. The rights apply to most agency workers, homeworkers and freelancers. Only those who are self-employed and are genuinely running their own business do not have the right to paid annual leave.

For more information on whether you are an employee, a worker or self-employed, please go to the employment status section.

For more information on agency workers' holiday entitlements, please go to the rights for agency workers section.

Contractual holiday rights

Under your contract, you may be entitled to more than the minimum 5.6 weeks' leave. You should look at your contract, staff handbook, the staff intranet or any collective agreement negotiated between your employer and trade union to check your entitlement.

There are eight permanent bank holidays and public holidays in England and Wales, 9 in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland.

You do not have a statutory right to be paid for any leave above the statutory minimum, but most contractual leave will be paid.

If you work part-time you have the right to the same additional leave as full-time employees, calculated on a pro-rata basis reflecting the hours you work. Please follow this link for more information about rights for part-time workers.

Bank holidays and public holidays

You do not have a statutory right to take paid leave on bank holidays or public holidays. If your employer gives you paid leave on bank holidays and public holidays, this can count towards your statutory annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks.

But many workers will have a contractual right to paid time off on bank holidays and public holidays in addition to your minimum leave entitlement. You should look at your contract staff handbook, staff intranet or a collective agreement negotiated between your union and employer for your holiday to check your rights relating to bank holidays and public holidays.

If you work part time and your employer gives additional time off on bank holidays or public holidays, you should also be given additional time off calculated on a pro rata basis. This is the case even if the bank holiday or public holiday does not fall on your usual work day. Your employer can decide if you have to take this leave in the same week as the bank holiday.

You do not have an automatic right to receive enhanced pay if you work on a bank holiday or public holiday, but you may be entitled to an enhanced rate under your contract.

From 1 October 2011, after 12 weeks in the same job, agency workers will have the right to the same entitlements on bank holidays as if they had been directly recruited by their hirer. This includes the right to equal treatment on additional leave and enhanced pay.

Calculating your holiday rights

The amount of statutory paid leave you are entitled to depends on how many days you work in a week.

In order to calculate your statutory leave entitlement you should multiple the number of days you normally work in a week by 5.6.

If you work five days a week you will be entitled to 28 days paid leave every year.

5 days x 5.6 = 28.

You may find the statutory holiday entitlement calculator on the GOV.UK website helpful.

It allows you to calculate your holiday entitlement for full and part years based on the set days or hours you work.

Regardless of your normal working pattern your statutory holiday entitlement will be capped at 28 days a year -even if you normally work 6 days a week. You may be entitled to more leave under your contract.

Working part-time

If you work part time you have the statutory right to 5.6 weeks leave a year.

As for full time workers, to calculate your statutory entitlement you should multiple the number of days you normally work in a week by 5.6.

So if you work two days a week you will be entitled to at least 11.2 days paid leave a year.

2 days x 5.6 = 11.2 days

As in the example above, this may leave you with a holiday entitlement, such as, 11.2 days leave per year. There is no obligation on employers to round up your leave entitlement to the nearest half day or full day. But they cannot round down any part days. The fractions of days can be taken as holiday, as hours.

If full time employees are entitled to additional leave, above the statutory minimum, you must also receive the same entitlement calculated on a pro rata basis.

Again, your employer cannot round down the number of days you are given as this would be less favourable treatment, but fractions of days may be given as hours. Please follow the link for more information on part time workers' rights.

Jobs with irregular work patterns

If you have a job without a regular work pattern, your entitlement is based on your average contracted hours. This will include shift workers, term-time only workers, casual workers and zero-hours contract workers, plus those on annualised hours, four-and-a-half-day weeks and nine-day fortnights.

It will probably be easier in these cases to work out your entitlement in hours. This means once you have worked out the average hours you work each week, you multiply this by 5.6. The result will be the number of hours holiday you are entitled to.

Taking your leave

Unless your contract says otherwise, you should give your employer notice of your intention to take leave. This should be at least twice as long as the holiday that you want to take. For example, you should give at least two weeks' notice for a one-week holiday.

Depending on the wording of your contract, your employer may be able refuse permission for you to take leave. Employers can only refuse permission if they give you notice which is at least as long as the holiday requested. So to refuse a request for a week's leave they have to inform you at least a week before the holiday is due to start.

Your contract may set out rules about when you can take holiday. For example, your employer may not agree to all staff taking leave during the busiest period of the year. This is allowed as long as the rules do not prevent you from taking all your holiday entitlement.

Your employer can also decide when some or all of your holidays must be taken. For example, they can require that some holiday is taken during a Christmas closed down period. However your employer must provide you with adequate notice - that is at least twice the length of notice as the length of holiday they require you to take. For example, if they require you to take 5 days leave over the Christmas period, they must provide you with at least 10 days' notice.

Being paid while on holiday

You have a right to be paid while you are on annual leave. Your employer may try to get round this by saying that your hourly pay rate includes an amount for holiday pay, and that they therefore do not have to give extra pay if you take a break.

However, thanks to legal cases supported by trade unions, the European Court of Justice has ruled that this practice (known as 'rolled-up' pay) is unlawful, and workers have the right to take and be paid for annual leave at the time of taking the leave.

Your holiday pay must be your normal rate of pay, excluding non-contractual overtime. This means if you are guaranteed a number of hours overtime per week or per month any overtime pay must be added to your basic pay when calculating your holiday pay.


If you become ill during your holiday or just before you were due to take it you can ask to convert the period of holiday concerned to sick leave and ask to take the missed annual leave at a later date.

You should follow your workplace procedure for telling your employer you are ill (e.g. letting your employer know you are ill or providing medical certificates). These rules are usually contained in your contract, staff handbook, or on a staff intranet.

If you are be unable to take all of your holiday entitlement within your leave year because of illness you are entitled to carry forward the entitlement you would otherwise lose to the next year.

Can I carry forward unused leave into next year?

Your employer is required to ensure that you take at least 4 weeks' leave during your leave year.

Whether you are able to carry forward the additional 1.6 weeks statutory leave or additional contractual leave will depend on your contract or a collective agreement negotiated between your union and employer or if your employer gives permission

(For more information on your leave year, see the GOV.UK holiday entitlement section)

Buying out holiday

Employers are not allowed to buy back your statutory holiday entitlement (i.e. 5.6 weeks leave).

If you have a right to holiday in excess of the statutory minimum, your employer can agree to offer to buy back this extra leave.

Your should check your contract, staff handbook, staff intranet or any collective agreement negotiated between your employer and a union for any buy back arrangements.

Detailed information about paid holidays (PDF)

What can I do if I am not getting my statutory holiday rights?

If you are not receiving your statutory holiday rights you can make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal.

It is always a good idea to seek advice from your union rep or from the ACAS Helpline before taking steps to enforce your rights.

For more information please go to the section on enforcing your rights.

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