Holiday entitlement

Paid holiday entitlement

Your entitlement to paid holidays is one of those subjects which are fairly straightforward on the surface but do you really know the details? In recent times we have seen a number of high-profile court cases which have confused the matter somewhat. So, we will now take a look at employment rights and your entitlement to paid holidays.

What types of workers are entitled to paid holidays?

When we hear the term workers, this is a very broad generalisation which includes a number of different roles. As a worker, you would be entitled to paid holidays if you are an:-

  • Employee
  • Apprentice
  • Zero hours contract worker
  • Casual worker
  • Agency worker

Many people automatically assume it is just full-time employees who are entitled to paid holidays. As you can see from the above list, this is not the case.

The details surrounding self-employed people, working for a company, is slightly more complicated. While not definitive, you may be entitled to paid holidays if you are effectively classed as a worker. The change in definition from self-employed to worker is possible if:-

  • You do the work “personally”. This means that you do not allocate tasks for a specific employer to any other individual.
  • You are not carrying out work as part of your self-employed business. In simple terms, if the employer is not a client/customer of your underlying self-employed business.

The self-employed /worker status is something of a grey area and if you find yourself in this position it would be sensible to take advice.

So now we have defined the types of workers who are entitled to paid holidays, how many paid holiday are you actually entitled to?

Calculating your paid holiday entitlement

There are statutory minimum requirements when it comes to paid holiday entitlement. These are set in stone and no employer can reduce your statutory entitlement – although many will enhance it. Your statutory holidays are referred to as your “statutory entitlement” with additional holidays referred to as your “contractual entitlement”.

The statutory paid holiday entitlement for a full-time employee is:-

  • 6 weeks per annum (28 working days)

The entitlement will change depending upon your working week and working hours. The government have provided a simple table which allows you to confirm your paid holiday entitlement.

Normal working week Paid holiday entitlement per annum
5 or more 28 days
4 22.4 days
3 16.8 days
2 11.2 days
1 5.6 days

So, if your normal working week is three days then you are entitled to 16.8 days minimum statutory paid holidays per annum.

In this day and age, many people work irregular hours which can make it a little more complicated to work out your paid holiday entitlement. Previously holiday pay was calculated using an average of the previous 12 weeks working hours. On 6 April 2020 this was increased to 52 weeks.

This means that the average working week for an employee will be calculated using their working time over the last 52 weeks. If they have not yet reached the anniversary of their employment, the average would be calculated on the full duration of their employment.

When can you take your paid holidays?

Each employer will have what is known as a “leave year” which is effectively a 12 month period during which you are obliged to take your paid holidays. For some companies this may be the calendar year, tax year or it may relate to their company year end. The specific leave period should be detailed in your contract of employment and is something you should be aware of.

At this point it is important to note that bank holidays are classed as part of your statutory holiday entitlement. As a consequence, your employer can request that you take a bank holiday as one of your paid holidays. This is the statutory position, although there is nothing stopping an employer from enhancing your holiday entitlement.

Holiday notice

There will be occasions where you may need to take an emergency holiday, which many employers will facilitate where possible. However, the majority of holidays are pre-planned which brings us on to the subject of holiday notice period.

If there is no holiday notice period detailed in your employment contract, there is a very basic rule of thumb. The holiday notice you give your employer should be twice the number of days you are taking off. So, if you wish to take 7 days holiday then you must give a minimum of two weeks’ notice.

It is advisable to submit holiday requests in writing/email so if there are any issues there is a paper trail. There may be occasions where your employer requests that you consider a different holiday period. They cannot force you to change your holiday request, but there needs to be a bit of give and take in the workplace where possible.

Pro-rata holiday entitlement

When starting a new employment position there may be some initial contractual restrictions on when you can take your first paid holiday. In reality, for each full month of employment you will receive an allocation of 1/12th of your annual holiday entitlement. So, it is highly unlikely that you would be able to take any holidays within your first month of employment, unless otherwise agreed.

Parting company mid-leave year

If you were to part-company with your employer mid-leave year it is likely that you would have accumulated at least some unused holiday entitlement. Your employer is legally obliged to pay you for any accumulated holidays which have not been used. You would obviously need to pro-rata your entitlement for the part-year, but you are entitled to payment by law.

Treatment of unused holiday allocation

While your employer will have a clearly defined leave year, this timetable is not necessarily set in stone. There are three traditional exceptions which may involve remuneration for unused holiday allocation or carrying them over to the next leave year:-

  • If you have been off work on long-term sick
  • If you have been on maternity leave
  • If you have agreed with your employer to pay/rollover unused entitlement

So, if for some reason you decided not to take your full entitlement in a leave year, you may lose the allocation with no remuneration. This is the statutory position, although some employers will have enhancements to help better manage employee holidays.

Employer refusing entitlement to paid holidays

On occasion, but very rarely, you will find that some employers may be wrongly advised regarding the holiday entitlement of individual employees. This scenario tends to relate more to self-employed individuals who should be treated as employees, as we have mentioned above.

If your employer is wrongly refusing to acknowledge our entitlement to paid holidays, or stopping you from taking your full annual entitlement, you have a degree of protection. You are legally able to carry over four weeks statutory holiday into the next leave year. Where an employer continually refuses to acknowledge your legal rights, you can still carry over four weeks statutory holiday into future leave years.

Any valid carry over entitlement will count towards your employer’s legal payment obligations in the event that you part company.

Taking action against your employer

While the majority of employers tend to abide by their legal and statutory obligations, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you find yourself in this situation, there is a recognised course of action:-

  • Make your employer aware of the situation on an informal basis
  • Make a formal complaint regarding your unfair treatment
  • Look at mediation via the likes of ACAS
  • Consider legal action

While there are some grey areas regarding recognition of employee holiday rights, on the whole, the laws are relatively straightforward. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that an employer trying to defend an un-defendable position would not look for an early agreement.

In a perfect world, an informal discussion, presenting evidence to back up your case, should be enough. If not, then you may see a gradual deterioration in your working relationship.

Claiming your holiday entitlement

Over the years we have seen some significant changes with regards to statutory holiday entitlement for different classes of worker. Just recently the High Court ruled against ride hailing company UBER with regards to the position of “self-employed” drivers. While this may be subject to appeal, UBER drivers are now classed as workers and not self-employed.

This is an area we have touched on above, which can significantly impact paid holiday entitlement. Make sure you are aware of your holiday entitlement rights.