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What are the entitlements to annual leave?

Since April 2009 all workers have, from the first day of employment, the right to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday per year. You can work out how many days off you should get by multiplying the number of days you work each week by 5.6.

Other European countries have always said that this minimum annual holiday entitlement should be in addition to their public holidays - usually called bank holidays in the UK. This was not the case when the rules were introduced to the UK, and employers were allowed to count bank holidays such as Christmas Day against the (then) 4 week minimum.

Thanks to trade union campaigning, the Labour previous government closed this loophole. UK workers have now gained better minimum holiday rights so that a full-time worker can get the European minimum of 4 weeks plus an extra 8 days - the number of bank holidays in most of the UK.

This is not the same as an entitlement to take bank holidays off work. While many contracts of employment do give an automatic right to take bank holidays off, some jobs have always required people to work during holidays. What it means is that you can take 4 weeks plus either bank holidays or time off in lieu for any bank holidays that you had to work.

Most employers simply give new workers at least their legal minimum straight away. However, employers can choose to use an 'accruals' system during the first year of employment. 'Accrual' means that workers are given their leave in 12 pieces, with their entitlement increasing at the start of each month.

Where there is no other arrangement, the leave year begins on 1 October for workers who started employment before 1st October 1998. For new workers, the year begins on the anniversary of the start of their employment.

Alternatively, the leave year may begin on a date provided for in your contract of employment. Most organisations have a standard year for every member of staff over which you can take your entitlement.

Part-time workers' annual leave entitlement is proportionate to the time they normally work, e.g. a worker who normally works 3 days per week is entitled to 16.8 days' annual leave, and so on.

Leave can only be taken in the leave year in which it is due, unless sickness absence (or perhaps maternity leave) prevents this. Leave may not normally be replaced by a payment in lieu — except on termination of employment.

An employer may require a worker to give notice of intention to take annual leave and the dates proposed. The employer may require this notice to be given at least twice as many days in advance of the start of leave as the number of days to which the notice relates. If giving due notice, the employer may also require the worker:

  • to take leave to which the worker is entitled on particular days, or
  • not to take such leave on particular days.

The employer's notice must be given at least as many days in advance of the leave start date, as the number of days of the proposed leave. All the provisions with regard to the provision of notices can be varied by a trade union agreement.