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Biz Regulations Around the World: Leave Entitlement in the UK

By: SmallBizClub



Employment laws in most countries make it clear that all workers have access to paid leave, regardless of whether they work full or part-time. A worker’s amount of leave varies on a range of variables from days worked a year to individual agreements, but the basic idea is always preserved.

Here we take a look at leave entitlement in the United Kingdom:

UK Employee Statutory Leave Entitlement

The law sets out several criteria for an employee to classify as a worker. Whether the contract is in writing or vocal, the employee must be able to enjoy paid leave. This law also covers bank holidays, general closures and days off carried over from a previous year.

Working Time Regulations 1998 states, a full-time worker must have 5.6 working weeks of paid leave per year or 28 days. A full-time worker works 5 days a week – a part-time worker will receive a proportionate amount of the statutory leave.

For Example: – A part-time worker works 3 days a week, their leave is 3(days) X 5.6(Weeks’) = 16.8 days per year. So, this worker’s entitlement is 16.8 days of paid leave per year.

There is a 28-day cap, so a person that works 6 days a week will still have the same statutory 28 days that a 5-day-week worker would have. Though, there are still rules in place to prevent the exploitation of irregular working hours such as, paid leave by the hour.

When the employee is on leave, the employer must pay the full hourly rate in salary while the worker is away. Leave days taken beyond the statutory and contractual amount are unpaid leave days.


Employers often choose to offer more leave than the statutory minimum or extra forms of paid absences on top of the statutory leave. In these cases, the employee and employer need to refer to the work agreement when discussing leave pay.

Bank Holidays Annual Leave Entitlement

Bank holidays are not statutory for all workers, so these days are at the employer’s discretion. Bank holidays do count toward the annual statutory leave entitlement, and they may reduce the extra days stated in the worker’s contract.

An employer may still choose to add back the leave days from the bank holiday to the worker’s leave account. If the employee works a bank holiday, they should be paid in full as if it were any other day. Employers may also wish to pay bonuses to workers over bank holidays.

Carrying Over Holidays

At the end of the year, an employer is not allowed to reimburse the worker for any unused leave. The employee should take the accumulated leave of that year in that contractual year. In this case, the definition of year can be financial or calendar, but it should be in the contract.

If the leave is not taken, then the employee may lose some or all of it unless the work contract allows it to be carried over. Protections allow up to 1.6 weeks (8 days) to carry forward to the new year.

Annual Leave When on Sick or Family Friendly Leave

The tight definitions of sick leave and annual leave are there to protect both the employee and the employer. Family leave, sick leave, and other types of statutory absence leave are also protected. In these cases, employers must carry unused portions over to the new year.

  • Sick Leave – If the employee was unable to take annual leave due to illness, the protection preserves up to 4 weeks of annual leave.
  • Family-Friendly Leave – Employers must carry over their remaining annual leave, in full, for employees on parental/ maternity absence.

Employees Taking Annual Leave When Sick

Employees that have already been on active annual leave cannot cancel it and claim sick leave if they fall ill. Some employers may make exceptions in cases where the employee has not taken any of their annual leave – since sick leave is not time off.

While sick, an employee may opt for taking their annual leave, and they may choose this if they feel that they have already taken too much sick leave. If the employee does not take any of their annual leave due to sickness in that year, the employer can roll over all remaining days. The rollover can last for up to 18 months before wiping the slate clean.

Refusing Annual Leave Requests

The policies for refusing annual leave should always be in writing in the work contract. And although a refusal is at the discretion of the employee, it must be on fair and reasonable grounds. Reasonable grounds include limited staff or a cap on the number of employees off at the same time.

If there are other reasons to deny the leave, the employers should give them in writing to the employee. Employees must receive plenty of notice of the refusal, and employers must offer alternative days. Major holidays will cause an influx of leave requests, where the employer can choose to be more flexible.

Imposing a Blanket Holiday on Your Employees

Popular leave slots like the Christmas period makes scheduling workers a challenge. So again, it is at the discretion of the employer whether to be fair and close – to allow all staff to have the same time off.

Enforcing a holiday period may be beneficial to an employer. Certain regions may suffer regular winter storms over Christmas, so a business may feel that it is safer and better for morale to close for that week.

Employers need to give at least 2 weeks’ notice to all employees that they intend to apply a blanket holiday period. It is also possible, and even a clever idea to stagger the holiday period into two groups of staff.

Finalizing Leave Entitlement with the End of a Work Contract

An employer must compensate the employee for any outstanding leave entitlement when a contract ends. During employment, an employer cannot pay an employee instead of unclaimed leave, but they can on contract termination.

Employees have the right to make a lawful claim for leave that is not accounted for in their final pay slip. During the period of calculating the leave payment owed, the employee is still entitled to their full leave.

An employer may deduct excess days, beyond the contractual leave, for the final calculations of an employee’s last salary. Though, it may be wise to check with a solicitor – to ensure that it is not classed as an unauthorised deduction of wages and that there is no breach of contract.

Author: Tim Edwards is a writer with from Timetastic, a company specialising in absence management software.

Published: January 14, 2022

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