Annual Leave: FAQs

As we approach the summer months, employers may be receiving a higher number of annual leave requests than usual. 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 workers (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. This amounts to 28 days for a full- time worker and will be prorated for those working part- time.

A ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Regulations is defined as someone that works under a contract of employment or under any other contract where they undertake to personally perform work or services for another party to the contract, where that other party is neither a client or customer of theirs or any business or profession carried on by them.

Establishing whether an individual is a ‘worker’ for the purposes of the Regulations is not always straightforward and so we would encourage you to seek legal advice on the issue if you are ever in doubt.

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

The Regulations contain certain requirements regarding notice in relation to 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 a worker wishing to take statutory holiday must be at least twice the period of leave that they are requesting. 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 workers 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. If a worker is permitted to take leave on public holidays, then this will obviously count towards their annual leave entitlement.

What impact does overtime have on a worker’s holiday calculations?

Acas have produced guidance regarding overtime. The guidance makes it clear that all overtime worked should be included when calculating a worker’s statutory holiday pay entitlement. There is an exception, however, where overtime is worked on a genuinely occasional and infrequent basis.

Can a worker 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 a worker gives birth early whilst on annual leave, then their annual leave will stop and their maternity leave will start.

Will annual leave continue to accrue during maternity leave?

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

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

A worker that has accrued statutory holiday during maternity leave must be permitted to roll this over into the following holiday year. However, an employer can legitimately require a worker 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.

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