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Holidays and holiday pay

Who has the right to paid holidays

Most workers have the right to take a minimum amount of paid holiday. This is called statutory holiday.

You have the right to take statutory paid holiday from work if you are a worker. This includes people who work full-time, part-time, agency workers and casual workers. Only people who are self-employed and a few other exceptions will not be entitled to statutory paid holiday (see below).

The rules about statutory holiday apply regardless of how long you have worked for your employer and regardless of how old you are. However, you don't have the right to statutory holiday if you're a child under school leaving age.

For more information about the rights of workers under school leaving age, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see Young people and employment. In Scotland, see Young people and employment.

You have the right to take 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year. To find out how this applies to you, see under heading How much paid holiday can you take.

Before 1 April 2009, your right to paid holiday from work was 4.8 weeks. Your leave year may have started before 1 April 2009 and carries on after 1 April 2009. If so, your annual leave will be worked out on a pro-rata basis – 4.8 weeks pro rata for the period before 1 April 2009 and 5.6 weeks pro rata for the period from 1 April 2009.

Your contract of employment may give you the right to take more than the statutory amount of paid holiday. However, it cannot give you less. If your contract gives you the right to take more than the statutory amount of paid holiday, this is called contractual holiday. The law doesn't say how much contractual holiday you should get, or whether or not it should be paid.

Agency workers and holidays

Agency workers have the right to take 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year. They may also have additional rights to holiday.

For more information about the rights of agency workers, see Additional rights for agency workers.

Workers who do not have the right to statutory holiday

There are some workers who are not entitled to statutory holiday.

You won't have the right to statutory holiday if you work in:

  • the armed forces
  • the police
  • the civil protection services.

However, if you're not entitled to statutory paid holiday, your contract of employment will probably give you the right to take contractual holiday.

If you're not sure about whether you have the right to take statutory paid holiday, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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How much paid holiday can you take

You are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks' holiday a year if you work full time, or a pro-rata amount if you work part time. This is called statutory holiday.

To work out how many days holiday you can take a year, you need to multiply 5.6 by the number of days you work in a week.

For example:

  • if you work a five-day week, you are entitled to 28 days' paid holiday a year (5.6 X 5).
  • if you work 2.5 days a week, you are entitled to 14 days' paid holiday a year (5.6 X 2.5).

The maximum amount of statutory paid holiday you can be entitled to is 28 days. This applies even if you work more than five days a week.

Your contract of employment may give you the right to take more than the statutory amount of paid holiday. However, it cannot give you less. For example, if your contract of employment says you can only take 10 days' paid holiday a year and you work five days a week, you will still be entitled to take 28 days' paid holiday.

If your normal working week is expressed in hours, your statutory leave may be expressed in hours too.

Before 1 April 2009, you were entitled to 4.8 weeks paid holiday a year. If your leave year includes time before 1 April 2009, your annual leave will be worked out on a pro-rata basis – 4.8 weeks pro rata for the period before 1 April 2009 and 5.6 weeks pro rata for the period from 1 April 2009.

To help you work out your exact entitlement, you can use the calculator on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk or in Northern Ireland on the Nibusinessinfo website at www.nibusiness.co.uk.

What is a leave year

A leave year is a one-year period in which you get your year’s worth of leave. Your employer will usually agree the start and end of the leave year with you. Some leave years start on 1 January and finish on 31 December. Others start on 6 April and finish on 5 April the following year.

If you and your employer have not agreed when the leave year should start and finish, the leave year will start on:-

  • 1 October (23 November in Northern Ireland), if you started work with your employer on or before 1 October 1998 (23 November 1998 in Northern Ireland). Each leave year after this will start on the following 1 October (23 November in Northern Ireland); or
  • the date you started work for your employer, if you started work after 1 October 1998 (23 November 1998 in Northern Ireland). Each leave year after this will start on the anniversary of the date on which you started work.

If you start work partway through your leave year, the amount of leave you get depends on how much of the leave year you have worked. For example, if you start work in April in a company where the leave year starts on 1 October, you have started half-way through the leave year. You will therefore get half the annual paid leave for that year. There are special rules if you are in your first year of employment.

If you're not sure about how much holiday you are entitled to, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Bank and public holidays

You do not have an automatic right to take bank or public holidays off work, with or without pay. This will depends on your employment contract.

Your employment contact may say that you have the right to statutory holidays or it may not say anything about contractual holidays or statutory holidays. In these cases, your employer can:

  • ask you to work bank or public holidays, or
  • give you bank and public holidays off without paying you for them. In this case, you won't lose your right to take your full statutory holiday at some other point, or
  • give you bank and public holidays off and pay you for them but ask you to count them towards your statutory holiday entitlement, or
  • do a combination of all of these.

Example: if you work five days a week, you are entitled to 28 days' statutory paid holiday a year (5.6 weeks X 5 days). If you are expected to take bank and public holidays off, and you are paid for them, these days will be deducted from your 28 days. In England and Wales, there are eight bank and public holidays so this will leave you 20 days which you can choose when to take.

In Scotland, there are nine bank and public holidays so this will leave you 19 days which you can choose when to take.

In Northern Ireland, there are ten bank and public holidays so you will be left with 18 days which you can chose when to take.

Remember that if your leave year started before 1 April 2009, you will be entitled to fewer holidays than this – see under heading How much paid holiday can you take.

Your employment contract may give you bank or public holidays off on top of your statutory holiday. If this is the case, your contract will specify this and also say whether you will be paid for these days. The situation can be complicated if your contract says nothing about bank and public holidays.

Example: your employment contract says you are entitled to 35 days a year paid holiday. This is more than your statutory holiday. Your employment contract says nothing about bank and public holidays. You will be entitled to 7 days off over and above your statutory entitlement. Your employer may pay you for bank and public holidays as part of this extra entitlement or they may ask you to work bank and public holidays and take the extra 7 days at other times.

For more information on bank and public holidays, see Bank and public holidays.

There are special rules for shop-workers in England and Wales who work in large shops (over 280 square feet). If you work in one of these shops, you must be given Christmas Day off, regardless of which day it falls on. However, whether or not you will be paid will depend on your contract of employment.

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What your contract must say about holidays

If you are an employee you are entitled to a written statement of your terms and conditions of employment as long as you have worked for your employer for one month. You are an employee if you have a contract of employment. Many employers do not give their employees a written statement of the main terms and conditions of the job even though the law says they have to. If your employer does not give you the written statement within two months of the date on which you started work, they will be breaking the law.

The written statement must contain information on your right to holidays, including public holidays and holiday pay. Your employer must give you enough information to work out your entitlement to holidays and holiday pay, and your right to any holiday pay you may have built up when you leave your job.

If you do not have a copy of your written terms and conditions, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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How much holiday pay should you get

Your employer will pay your holiday pay at the same rate as your normal pay. You may get a higher rate of holiday pay if your contract gives you the right to a higher rate.

If you do casual work, or work irregular hours and aren't sure how to work out how much holiday pay you're entitled to, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those who give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Some employers and employment agencies may say that your hourly rate of pay includes an amount for holiday pay, and that they expect you to save this part of your pay to cover your holidays. This is known as 'rolled up' holiday pay. Rolled up holiday pay may be against the law unless your holiday pay is paid on top of your basic pay and it's clear what the amount of rolled up holiday pay is. For example, the amount of rolled up holiday pay should be clearly set out in your payslip.

If you think you are getting rolled up holiday pay, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those who give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Your right to paid holiday from the day you start work

If you are a worker who has the right to paid holiday you have this right from your first day of employment. However, this does not mean you can take all of your leave as soon as you start work. The law says how your paid holiday builds up in your first year of work.

How does your paid holiday build up in your first year of work, if you started after 25 October 2001 (14 April 2002 in Northern Ireland)

If you started work after 25 October 2001 (14 April 2002 in Northern Ireland), the amount of leave you can take in your first year of work builds up over the year. The amount of leave you can take builds up monthly in advance at the rate of one twelfth of your yearly leave each month. If this does not give you an exact number of days leave, your leave is rounded up to the nearest half day. Your employer will deduct any leave you have already taken from the leave you have built up.

For more information about how you can work out how much paid holiday you can take in your first year of work, visit the website of GOV.UK at: www.gov.uk.

How to work out your paid holiday if you started work on or before 25 October 2001 (14 April 2002 in Northern Ireland)

If you started work on or before 25 October 2001 (14 April 2002 in Northern Ireland) there are no legal rules about how your holiday builds up.

If you want to know how your holiday builds up and how much paid holiday you can have, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Can you choose when to take holiday

You can ask to take your holiday whenever you choose, as long as you give your employer the right notice and take into account certain agreements between you and your employer. However, an employer has the right to refuse your request to take holiday, as long as they give you the right notice at the right time and take account of certain agreements between you.

Your employer can require you to take all or any of your holiday at a particular time, as long as they give you the right notice at the right time and take into account certain agreements between you.

The law does not put any limit on the amount of holiday you can take at any one time. This means you are not entitled to take two weeks of holiday at once, unless your agreement or employment contract says you can. This means that as long as an employer gives their employee the right notice at the right time, they could make you take your holiday as they choose, for example, take every Friday as leave until you have used up all of your holiday.

If you work in an industry where you have a pattern of being required to work at certain times, and not being required to work at other times, your employer can make you take your holiday during the times you are not required to be working, unless your contract or agreement says otherwise. This would apply to, for example, oil workers who work offshore, teachers and tourist industry workers. Your employer must still give you notice of when they require you to take the leave.

If you are not sure whether or not an agreement between you and your employer affects your holiday rights, you should contact an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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What notice must be given before you take holiday

If you have not got an agreement with your employer about how much notice you have to give before you can take holiday the following rules apply:

  • your employer can make you take all or any of your holiday at a particular time, as long as they give you notice. This notice must be at least twice as long as the holiday they want you to take. For example, if your employer wants to have a Christmas shutdown for one week, they have to give you notice of the date the holiday is to start at least two weeks before it starts.
  • you must give notice to your employer when you want to take holiday. This notice must be at least twice as long as the holiday you want to take. For example, if you want to take three days’ leave, you must give your employer notice of this at least six days before your holiday is due to start.

Your employer can refuse to let you take holiday. To do this they must give you notice equal to the holiday you want to take. So if you have asked to take two weeks’ holiday and have told your employer four weeks before the date you want your holiday to start, your employer must tell you two weeks before your holiday is due to start that you cannot take the holiday.

If your employer is refusing to let you take holiday at a particular time, you should seek the advice of an experienced adviser as soon as possible, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Your employer refuses to let you take holiday

If your employer refuses to let you take any holiday, you should usually try to sort it out informally with them first. If this doesn't work, you may need to raise a grievance.

For more information about raising a grievance, in England, Wales and Scotland see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you have tried to raise the issue with your employer and are still not happy with the outcome, you can ask an employment tribunal to enforce your right to take holiday. If you make a claim to a tribunal, you must do this within three months of your employer's refusal to let you take holiday.

If your employer refuses to let you to take holiday, you should seek advice from an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. You should contact a CAB as soon as possible, as there is a time limit for making claims to employment tribunals. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

If you have given your employer the right notice of holiday, you are generally entitled to take it. However, under certain kinds of agreement between you and your employer, they can refuse your request for holiday. They can also refuse your request for holiday if they have given you the proper notice of their refusal. However, if your employer has not given you proper notice of refusal but still refuses to let you go on holiday, you can claim compensation at an employment tribunal. You should raise a formal grievance with your employer first (see above).

For more information in England, Wales and Scotland about what you can do if your employer refuses to let you take holiday, see Holidays and holiday pay in Employment fact sheets.

If your employer refuses to let you take holiday at a particular time, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Untaken holiday

If you cannot use up all of your holiday in one leave year, you may have the right to carry some of it over to the next leave year.

Generally, you are not allowed to carry over statutory holiday from one year to the next. Statutory holiday is the minimum amount of paid holiday you have a right to take by law – see under heading How much paid holiday can you take.

Your employment contract may give you contractual holiday on top of statutory holiday – see under heading Who has the right to paid holidays. If your contract gives you contractual holiday, you may be able to carry over some of this holiday to the next leave year. You can only carry over contractual holiday if your employment contract says you can. You may also be able to be paid for any contractual holiday you have not taken, depending on what it says in your employment contract.

If you cannot use up all your paid holiday because your employer will not let you take the holiday before the leave year ends, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB. You should get help quickly as if you need to make a claim to an employment tribunal for the unpaid holiday pay, you must make a claim within three months of your employer refusing you holiday.

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Unpaid holiday

When you leave your job you should be paid any holiday pay owed to you. If you employer refuses, you can ask an employment tribunal to enforce your rights. You must make a claim within three months of the date your employment ended.

If your employer refuses to pay you holiday pay, you can ask an employment tribunal to enforce your rights. You may be able to make a claim for all your unpaid holiday pay, even if it goes back for more than a year. You must make a claim within three months of the last date you were not paid holiday pay.

If you are owed holiday pay, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your nearest CAB, including those that give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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You are sick while on holiday

If you are off work on holiday, and you become ill enough that you could be off work, you can take this time as sick leave rather than holiday.

You can still take your holiday, but you can take it at a different time to when you originally planned to take it. You can carry the holiday you haven't taken over into the next leave year if you are not able to take it this leave year because you are ill.

However, if you want to treat your time of work as sick leave instead of holiday, your employer can pay you sick pay rather than holiday pay for that time. Sick pay will be less than normal pay.

Your employment contract should say how and when you should let your employer know you are sick, and what proof they might need.

If you are sick when you are meant to be on holiday you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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What happens to your holiday if you are off sick

If you are off sick, you will be entitled to build up statutory paid holiday while you are off work. When you return to work, you can ask your employer if you can take the holiday you have built up before the end of the leave year. If you have had your employment terminated while you were off sick, you are entitled to be paid all the statutory holiday pay you have built up.

If your employer refuses to let you take holiday on your return to work or refuses to pay you statutory holiday pay you have built up if your job has ended, you can ask an employment tribunal to enforce your rights. You may be able to make a claim for all your unpaid holiday pay. You must make a claim within three months of the last date you were not paid holiday pay.

You will only be entitled to build up contractual holiday while you are off sick if your contract allows for this.

For more information on the difference between statutory and contractual holiday, see under heading Who has the right to paid holiday.

If you have been on long-term sick leave and are worried about your rights to build up paid holiday, you should seek help straight away from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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Holidays and maternity/paternity and adoption leave

Most women employees have the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. During this period, you have the right to build up your statutory holidays in the same way as if you were at work. Statutory holiday means the minimum holiday you are entitled to by law. Your contract may give you more holiday than this.

Working parents may be entitled to paid paternity or adoption leave. During paternity and adoption leave, you have the right to build up your statutory holidays in the same way as if you were at work. Statutory holiday means the minimum holiday you are entitled to by law. Your contract may give you more holiday than this.

The rules on building up holiday while you are on maternity/ paternity or adoption leave can be complicated. Your contract may give you extra holiday. If you have a problem, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. For details of your CAB, including those that give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

For information about parental rights in the workplace, see Parental rights at work.

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Seasonal workers

Some workers, for example, seasonal workers, have contracts, which say they only work for part of the year. For example, your contract may run for 42 weeks out of 52, and your employer tells you to take unpaid leave for the remaining ten weeks before you start working for them again. In this situation your holiday rights depend on whether you have a contract of employment or not, and whether it continues during the time you are not working.

The rules on working out your holiday if you do not work for the whole year are complicated and you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Leaving your job

If you have not been able to take all the holiday you have built up before your job ends, you have the right to pay instead of the untaken holiday. Your employer should pay you for all the holiday you have built up. If you have an agreement with your employer, which says how much pay you will get instead of untaken holiday, you may get the amount in this agreement. If your agreement with your employer does not say how much pay you should get, the rules on how much pay you should get for untaken holiday are complicated and you should seek further advice.

If your employer refuses to pay you for untaken holiday

Your employer may refuse to pay you for untaken holiday if you are leaving or have left your job. If you are in this situation you can enforce your right to pay for untaken holiday at an employment tribunal. If you are in this situation you may have to raise a written grievance with your employer first.

For more information about grievances, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you are in this situation, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. You should contact a CAB as soon as possible, as there is a time limit for making claims to employment tribunals. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

If you owe holiday when you leave your job

If you have taken holiday you were not entitled to and you leave your job, your employer can sometimes make a deduction from your final pay for holiday you owe. The law in this area is complicated and you should seek further advice.

If an employer is claiming you owe them for unearned holiday, you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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Holiday pay if your employer becomes insolvent

If your employer becomes insolvent, you may be able to claim money owed from the National Insurance Fund. You can claim up to six weeks’ holiday pay. This may be for holidays you have taken but have not yet been paid for, or for holiday pay you have built up.

If you are in this situation you should seek the help of an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.

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