Holidays and annual leave

Amount of holiday a worker is entitled to

The contract of employment will normally set out the amount of holiday entitlement. This must be at least the statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks per year under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). Where no contract exists the WTR entitlement applies.


Employees and ‘workers’ have the right to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave under WTR. This increased on 1 April 2009 from 4.8 weeks.  


For people working a 'normal' five day week this will be 28 days leave per year and bank holidays are included in this total.


For people who work a different pattern - either part time or more than 5 days per week their number of days leave will vary on a 'pro rata' basis.


The WTR specify “weeks” of leave, rather than days, but set a maximum number of days leave as 28.


  • For someone working 5 days a week, 5.6 weeks would be 28 days leave.
  • For someone working 3 days a week. 5.6 weeks would be 16.8 weeks leave (the odd fraction does not have to be rounded up)
  • For someone working 6 days a week, 5.6 weeks would be 28 days – because of the maximum that can be taken.  

Workers in the first year of work

If you are in the first year of work with an employer an additional rule applies (Regulation 15A WTR). This sets out that only the amount of leave actually accrued can be taken.

Under this rule leave accrues at the rate of one-twelfth (8.33%) of the years leave on the first day of each month in the year. Accrued leave is rounded up to the nearest half day if the calculation produces fractions of a day in leave due.


Alan starts full time work on 1 June with an entitlement to 28 days leave per year. On 1 June he becomes entitled to 2.3 days leave (28 days leave divided by 12 months) which is rounded up to 2.5 days.


Alan does not take any leave until 14 August. At this date he is entitled to 6.9 days leave (3 months multiplied by 2.3 days leave per month). His leave is rounded up to 7 days.

Working out the leave year

A worker’s leave year begins on the date provided for in an agreement or contract or, where it is not specified, on the anniversary of the date on which employment began.


Statutory annual leave must be taken in the leave year in which it is due. If an employee does not take the leave they are entitled to they are not entitled to a payment in lieu of holiday (except when employment ends).


It is not generally possible to carry unused leave automatically to the next leave year unless a contractual agreement allows it. Leave can be carried over by workers on maternity leave or long term sick leave.

How much should a worker be paid when on holiday

Workers must be paid their normal weekly pay for each week of holiday they take (or a pro rata amount if they take less than a full week). For more details follow the link below:


More detail on the calculation of holiday pay

When employment ends

On the termination of employment, a worker is entitled to receive a payment for any holiday s/he has accrued in the leave year, but has not taken.



A worker who leaves 6 months after the start of the holiday year is entitled to a payment for 2.8 weeks holiday, less any holiday they have already taken.


If an employee leaves part way through a leave year and has taken more holiday than they have accrued during the year, there is no requirement under the WTR that they repay the excess holiday unless there is a ‘relevant agreement’, e.g., the worker’s contract or workforce agreement, requiring this to be done. It will be an unlawful deduction if the employer deducts the excess from the worker’s wages without such an agreement.

Workers on sick leave or maternity

Workers on sick leave continue to accrue holiday and should be allowed to take it during the leave year, even if they are off sick and even if they have no further entitlement to sick pay when they take the holiday. They must be paid their normal weeks wages when they take their holiday. In order to become entitled to receive holiday pay whilst on sick leave workers will need to give notice to their employer that they want to take leave on specific dates (see below).


Women on maternity leave also continue to accrue holiday, but cannot take it whilst they are on maternity leave.

Exercising the right to take holiday

The regulations make it possible for employers to specify when in the year the leave must or must not be taken or how many days can be taken at a time. For example, an employer can insist holidays are taken at an annual Christmas shutdown.


A worker who wants to take leave must comply with the notice rules set out in the WTR. They must give the employer twice as many days notice in advance of the first day proposed for leave as the number of days proposed in total. If the employer objects to leave being taken on those dates, he or she must give counter-notice as many days in advance of the earliest date as the total number of days to which the workers notice relates.



A worker wanting to take three day’s leave must give at least six days’ notice. If the employer wishes to refuse that leave, he must give at least three day’s counter-notice.

What can a worker do if the employer will not pay for holiday?

If the employer refuses to allow or pay for annual leave in any year the first step and employee should take is to raise a grievance with their employer.  If that does not resolve the matter a claim can be made in the Employment Tribunal that the employer has breached the WTR 1998, or made an unauthorised deduction from wages.


The time limit for a claim is 3 months from when payment for the holiday should have been received (or from the date a request for holiday was refused).


Follow the links below for more information on:

raising a grievance with your employer

making a claim to an Employment Tribunal


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