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Guide to Managing Annual Leave

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Calculating annual leave entitlements to ensure that everyone receives the statutory minimum paid leave can be a headache. In this blog we aim to ensure that you are confident that you are managing annual leave in line with legislation.

The amount of annual leave employees are granted depends on the type of contract they are on, with all workers in the UK entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per annum. Zero hour, casual and agency workers also receive the same paid holiday entitlement, with an average week based on average hours they have worked in the previous 52 working weeks (excluding non working weeks, going back as far as 104 weeks if necessary to reach 52 weeks worked). For part-time workers’ with a regular working pattern, 5.6 weeks will relate to their usual hours per week. For example, someone working 3 days a week will be entitled to 5.6 weeks of 3 days per week.

Employees and workers working variable hours, such zero-hours workers, are also entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday. Due to the irregular working patterns each week, you will need to calculate leave entitlement by working out the average days or hours worked each week over a reference period of 52 working weeks prior to the leave date. this means that each time leave is booked, the calculation will need to be re run.

Organisations can choose to enhance annual leave provision above the minimum 5.6 week allowance. For example, some employers offer an additional day for each year worked, or after a set number of years service, additional leave is granted.

The general notice period for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of leave a worker wants to take, plus 1 day. For example, a worker would give 3 days’ notice for 1 day’s leave. This is not a legal requirement but is common practice.

An employer can refuse a leave request, or may cancel leave, but they should give as much notice as the amount of leave requested, plus 1 day. For example, an employer would give 11 days’ notice if the worker asked for 10 days’ leave.

If the contract says something different about the notice a worker or employer should give, the contractual term take precedence and will apply.

An employee can request to cancel any previously booked holiday, although employers can still insist they take the time off. Employers are also able to insist that annual leave is taken during notice periods, as long as the correct notice is given of the requirement to take leave.

Employers can:

  • tell their staff to take leave, for example bank holidays or Christmas

  • restrict when leave can be taken, for example at certain busy periods

These details are usually set out in the employment contract or Annual Leave Policy. If an employer wants a worker to take leave, they need to make sure that the worker can relax, rest, and enjoy leisure during their holiday. For example, an employer cannot force a sick worker to take leave.

The notice that employers must give employees when asking them to take specific leave dates, is at least twice as long as the leave they want their staff to take. The employer must tell the worker before the notice period begins. For example, if your employer needs you to take 5 days of holiday while they are closed over Christmas. They should tell you this at least 10 days before the holiday starts, ideally sooner.

Looking for support and advice on managing leave or other employment issues? Contact or tel: 07970 260104.


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The content of our blogs is intended for general information only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

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