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Guide to Managing Annual Leave

Updated: Apr 8

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 employees in the UK entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per annum. 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.

Irregular or variable hours workers and part year workers who do not work or get paid across 52 weeks of the year, (i.e. those on zero hours, casual and agency worker agreements) are also entitled to receive paid holiday entitlement. This can be calculated using 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) 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.

Alternatively, for holiday years commencing on or after April 2024, Organisations can choose to use the roll up method of calculation, simply adding a percentage in lieu of holiday for each hour worked. to represent the UK statutory holiday of 20 days plus bank holiday, this equated to 12.07%. This calculation will vary if organisations 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. Whilst this is not a legal requirement, is common practice to enable employers to manage planned absence.

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 of refusal or cancellation if the worker had 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:

  • instruct 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 wishes to instruct 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 is due to start, ideally sooner.

Check out other Blogs in our series:

Please contact Robinson Grace HR for further advice and support via or call us on 01793 311937 to see if we can help you.

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

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