Annual leave entitlement: this is how much paid time-off your employer is legally obliged to give you

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Lauren Geall
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Annual leave entitlement

New research has shown that the average UK employee has nearly 12 days of annual leave left to take before Christmas, adding up to an incredible 393 million days of holiday left to use. To make sure you’re clued-up and ready to claim yours, here’s everything you need to know about your rights when it comes to your time off.

As we move in to the last quarter of 2019, you’ll probably be thinking about the best way to use up the rest of your annual leave. And while you may assume that most of us will have used up all that precious time off throughout the other three quarters of the year, that’s definitely not the case.

New research from travel money specialist Equals has revealed the average British worker actually has almost half of their annual leave left to use – despite the fact that we’re way over halfway through the year. And although some of those surveyed said they were saving that holiday for a late long-weekend break or last-minute holiday, almost one in 10 said they were simply too busy at work to take time off. 

While it may seem like a lot of hassle to keep tabs on your annual leave allowance and find ways to make the most of your entitlement, it’s important to take time off to enable your body to relax and recharge, especially if you haven’t taken any leave in a while. Some workplaces will differ in how you book time off and when exactly you’re allowed to use it, but most UK workers are entitled to the same amount of paid annual leave.

However, according to a recent report from the Resolution Foundation think tank, around one in 20 UK workers does not get any paid holiday – a practice which is, put quite simply, illegal.

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If you’re not crystal clear on your entitlements surrounding annual leave, it’s important you get up to speed on your rights so you can exercise them if you are denied the proper amount of paid holiday. Not only that, but taking proper time off can help you to avoid excessive stress and is an important opportunity for self-care.

So, without further ado, here’s a crash course on all the information surrounding annual leave entitlements, so you’ll never be caught out by any sub-par employers.

How much annual leave am I entitled to?

Almost all workers in the UK are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ of paid leave every year, including agency workers, workers with irregular hours, and those on zero-hour contracts.

If you work a five-day week, that means you are legally entitled to at least 28 days’ paid annual leave a year – because that will allow you to take off 5.6 weeks of the year in total.

Because everyone is legally entitled to 5.6 weeks off a year, the number of days off for a part-time worker will be less than a full-time worker. For example, if you were to work two days every week, you would be entitled to 11.2 days holiday a year. Why? Because that allows you to take 5.6 weeks off in total, including the normal days off you get every week. 

To calculate the leave you are entitled to, multiply the number of days you work per week by 5.6.

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How do bank/public holidays affect annual leave?

Bank and public holidays do not have to be given as paid leave, and an employer can choose to include bank holidays as part of your annual leave entitlement.

This is why more and more of us find ourselves being asked to work on public holidays, including Christmas.

Can I ask for more paid holiday?

An employer is able to offer more leave than the legal minimum, but this is in no way an obligation.

If an employer does choose to offer you extra paid holiday, they do not have to apply all the rules which apply to your legal 28 days. For example, you might have to work at the company for a year to receive a certain holiday benefit, or have to work a certain amount of days per week. 

Annual leave entitlement
Annual leave rights: Most workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday every year – here's how to make sure you get the time off you deserve.

Are there any other legal requirements concerning annual leave?

An employer is not legally required to pay you in place of any annual leave you do not take on a yearly basis: the only time you have the right to be paid in lieu is when you leave your job.

In fact, employers are always required to pay you for untaken annual leave in this case, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding you leaving.

You also have the right to accrue holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity and adoption leave, and build up your holiday entitlement even if you’re off work sick.

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What should I do if I feel my annual leave rights are being breached?

First of all, you’ll want to read-up on the facts and make sure the number of days annual leave you believe you are entitled to is correct.

If you are still not satisfied that your rights are being met, you can read up about raising a workplace dispute – and find out who you can seek help from – here.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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