Annual Leave: FAQs

posted by Helen Bull

With the sun shining, employers may be receiving a higher number of annual leave requests than usual as COVID-19 restrictions start to ease and from staff that are keen to make the most of the good weather. With that in mind, this article considers some frequently asked questions regarding holiday entitlement in the workplace.

How much annual leave are staff entitled to? 

Most employees (with some limited exceptions) have a statutory right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid leave each year under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (The “Regulations”). This amounts to 28 days for a full-time worker and will be pro-rated for those working part-time. This is the minimum entitlement; many employers offer additional annual leave and this should be recorded within the employment contract.

Do employees have to give a minimum period of notice when taking holiday?

The Regulations contain certain requirements regarding giving notice to take annual leave but these can be varied or excluded by the employer.

Where there has been no variation or exclusion, the notice to be given by an employee wishing to take holiday must be at least twice the period of leave that they are requesting, for example if an employee wants to take five days' leave, they must give at least 10 calendar days' notice. If an employer refuses the request, they must serve a counter notice at least as many days before the period of leave is due to start, as the number of days that are being refused.

Are employees entitled to time off for public holidays?

The 5.6 weeks’ entitlement takes into account 8 notional public holidays, but there is no right to time off on the days that those public holidays fall. An employee can be required to work on a bank holiday, as long as they get 5.6 weeks of annual leave. If an employee is permitted to take leave on public holidays, then this will obviously count towards their annual leave entitlement.

Can an employee take paid annual leave when on maternity leave?

No, it is not possible to take annual leave and maternity leave at the same time. This means that if an employee gives birth early whilst on annual leave, then her annual leave will stop and her maternity leave will start.

Will annual leave continue to accrue during maternity leave?

Yes, an employee on maternity leave continues to accrue their statutory and contractual paid annual leave entitlement.

What happens if an employee returns from maternity leave and wants to roll unused holiday into the following year?

An employee that has accrued holiday during maternity leave must be permitted to roll this over into the following holiday year. However, an employer can legitimately require an employee to take the holiday on or by a specified date (for example, immediately upon completion of the maternity leave period).

In this scenario, the employer must provide notice of at least twice the length of the period of leave that the worker is being required to take. Some employers specify their stance on accrued holiday in their employment contracts or in the staff handbook.

Can an employer ask their employees to take annual leave whilst on Furlough?

Yes, as long as:

  • the employer tops up the employee’s furlough pay to 100% of the employee’s normal salary; and
  • the employer provides the employee with the right amount of notice to take leave - twice the period that the employer is requesting them to take i.e., if the employer requires the employee to take 10 days' leave, it must give at least 20 calendar days' notice to the employee. There are no explicit requirements about the form that this notice must take.

If you would like more information about any of the issues raised in this article or on any other aspect of employment law, please contact us on 029 2034 5511 or at employment@berrysmith.com.