Holiday Entitlement And The Law

July’s here, Wimbledon is over and our colleagues are returning to work with that sun-kissed look from their “summer holiday”. It’s the time of year when one’s mind turns to booking some time off work and finding the perfect summer escape or planning your ‘staycation’.

Thankfully the Working Time Regulations 1998 provide all full-time workers in Britain and Northern Ireland with the right to take 5.8 weeks – that’s 28 days – paid leave each year. This is offered on a pro-rata basis for part-time workers.

The key driver to this right was primarily linked to the health and wellbeing of staff and ensuring that workers have time away from the ‘day-job’ to relax and, dare we say it, even to ‘de-stress’.

The regulations underpin each worker’s basic entitlement. The minimum annual holiday entitlement of 28 days’ paid holiday each year is stated to be inclusive of bank or public holidays. An employer will be acting unlawfully if it refuses to grant its workers 28 days leave each year, or if it seeks to agree a smaller number of annual leave days with its staff.

The particular provisions of each worker’s contract of employment or the employee handbook in place within the employing entity will dictate whether the stated amount of paid annual leave is on top, or inclusive, of bank and public holidays.

Every employer can provide their workers with more than the basic holiday entitlement if they wish. This is often regarded as a ‘perk’ and can act as a means of attracting workers and talent to a particular employer. Often employers will offer say 25 days holiday to workers plus bank holidays.

In Northern Ireland there are 10 recognised bank and public holidays. So, for example, an employee who had 25 days holiday plus bank holidays would be entitled to 35 days paid leave each year.

In Britain there are eight bank holidays. If an employer has operations across GB and Northern Ireland and wants to offer the same level of holiday entitlement across its operations it should carefully consider the wording of the contracts of employment and staff handbooks to ensure that employees in Northern Ireland are not inadvertently granted more holiday by virtue of the fact of the additional two bank holidays here.

So great, let’s sort a last-minute quick deal for over the Twelfth fortnight. But before you get the credit card out, you should be aware that the regulations do set down some advance notice requirements. Indeed most employers will also have their own internal holiday request proce dure requirements in place. This enables appropriate holiday cover to be in place if necessary.

The regulations require employees to give notice equating to twice the period of leave that they are requesting. So if an employee wishes to take five days holiday, they must give the employer 10 days advance notice.

Before booking, check your employer’s policies in relation to holiday – perhaps the old adage ‘book early so as to avoid disappointment’ also has a place in the working world after all.