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Holiday entitlements: what you need to know

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This can cause dilemmas if lots of staff want the same time off but you still need to keep your business running. Be prepared by having clear policies in place. 

What are the key issues employers need to know about holiday leave?

  • Annual leave should be agreed when an employee starts work. Details of holidays and holiday pay entitlement should be provided in an employee’s written statement within two months of starting work.
  • Most workers – whether part-time or full-time – are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. Additional annual leave may be agreed as part of a worker’s contract. 
  • Employers can set the times that workers take their leave, for example for a Christmas shutdown. If a worker’s employment ends, he or she has a right to be paid for the leave time due and not taken.
  • There is no legal right to paid leave for public holidays; any rights to paid time off for these holidays depends on the terms of a worker’s contract. Paid public holidays can be counted as part of the statutory 5.6 weeks of holiday.

What do I do if I get lots of staff wanting the same days off?

The best way to be as fair and consistent as possible is to have a policy on how to manage time off and leave requests. 

You might want to keep it nice and simple, for example allocate leave on the basis of “first come, first serve” and agree in advance on the level of cover each posts needs. Plan ahead to avoid last minute leave clashes or short-term absences.

Can an employer refuse leave?

Restrictions on taking holidays may be stated in the contract of employment, implied from custom or practice, or incorporated into individual contracts from a collective agreement.

Employers may choose to:

  • Shut down for certain periods where workers have to use their annual entitlement; 
  • Nominate particular dates as days of closure when workers are expected to take annual leave; 
  • Determine the maximum amounts of leave that can be taken on any one occasion and also the periods when leave may be taken; 
  • Determine the number of workers who can be off at any one time.

Adrian Wakeling is Acas guidance editor – you can contact Acas, the workplace experts, for more advice.

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