Know How Much Holiday To Give Your Staff


Most workers are legally entitled to paid holidays/annual leave.

A worker’s statutory paid holiday entitlement is 5.6 weeks (28 days for a worker working a five or a six-day week). This can include public and bank holidays. The entitlement for part-time workers is calculated on a pro-rata basis.

This guide shows you how to calculate a worker’s holiday entitlement and pay. It also explains notice requirements, how you may impose restrictions on when workers can take their holiday, and the relationship between annual leave and sick leave. Finally, the guide demonstrates how to pay leavers for any untaken holiday.

Statutory paid holiday entitlement

Almost all workers above school leaving age – not just employees but also, for example, agency and casual workers – are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per leave year (28 days for a worker working a five or a six-day week).

The 5.6 weeks is a minimum entitlement – you can choose to offer more.

You can count any days off for public or bank holidays towards a worker’s statutory holiday entitlement – but only as long as you pay them for those days off.

Workers below school leaving age must have a two-week break during school holidays. See our guide on employing young people.

When leave years may start

You may decide to have one date when your business’ leave year starts or have different start dates for individual workers (or groups of workers).

If you don’t have written leave arrangements, a leave year will start:

  • on the date a worker’s employment begins – if the worker started work after 23 November 1998
  • on 23 November 1998 – if the worker started work on or before 23 November 1998

Staff working a six-day week

The statutory paid holiday entitlement is capped at 28 days. So, although 5.6 weeks would equal 33.6 days for someone working a six-day week (5.6 x 6), staff working a six-day week are only entitled to 28 days’ paid holiday.

Holiday entitlement and the contract of employment

You must set out an employee’s paid holiday entitlement in their written statement of employment. This should enable them to work out their entitlement and pay for any untaken holiday if they leave.

Workers not entitled to the statutory minimum paid holiday entitlement

The following types of worker do not have the right to benefit from the minimum paid holiday entitlement:

  • the self-employed, who can take as little or as much holiday as they choose
  • those whose jobs may conflict with the requirement to take annual leave requirements, eg the armed forces, the police, those involved in civil protection (these workers have to rely on their contracts of employment for their rights to holiday)

The following types of worker are entitled to only four weeks’ paid holiday:

  • those working in share fishing
  • those working in merchant shipping
  • mobile workers on inland waterways and lakes
  • mobile staff working in the civil aviation sector

Carrying over unused paid holiday

A worker may wish to carry over unused holiday from the current leave year to the next.

Under European Union law, a worker must take at least four weeks’ holiday per leave year. If they take less than this, they cannot carry it over.

However, in the UK, the statutory entitlement is 5.6 weeks. What a worker may do with the additional 1.6 weeks depends on their contract of employment. You can either:

  • have an arrangement that workers must take their full statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks in any leave year
  • allow workers to carry over any of the additional 1.6 weeks that remains untaken into the next leave year – although they must take it by the end of the next leave year

If a worker has an additional contractual entitlement over and above the 5.6 weeks, it again depends on their contract of employment whether or not they either can carry it over or will receive pay in lieu for any of the entitlement that remains untaken.

If you do allow workers to carry over any contractual annual leave entitlement, you can have your own rules on when they must take it. For example, you could state that workers must take the carried-over leave within three months of start of the next leave year.

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