How much annual leave are UK workers entitled to by law?

We all like to take holidays, whether it’s a staycation or somewhere a bit more tropical. But how much annual leave are workers entitled to and what should HR managers be advising their organisations?

Currently, workers in the UK are entitled to a period of paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations 1998. Annual leave starts to accrue from the beginning of the employment contract and continues to accumulate throughout its duration.

The statutory holiday entitlement for all employees working full time is 5.6 weeks per year, which calculates as 28 days for someone who works five days a week. The annual entitlement to 5.6 weeks can include the (usually) eight bank holidays every year in the UK. However, there is a statutory limit of 28 days imposed on leave entitlement, so a worker employed on a six-day week does not get annual leave above the 28 days. Annual leave entitlement for part-time workers is determined on a pro-rata basis; for example, a three-day week worker is entitled to 3/5th of a full-time worker, i.e. 16.8 days which can be rounded up for ease, though it doesn’t have to be. Employers can’t round it down.

Annual leave isn’t the only type of time off work where payment to the employee must be maintained during the absence. Employees are still paid during maternity and adoption leave, subject to eligibility criteria. However, this is not full pay, and the actual level of payment differs depending on how much leave is taken. Employees taking the total amount of time available will not be paid for the last 13 weeks of leave. Paternity leave and shared parental leave are also paid according to the reduced pay statutory scheme, but it’s open to employers to offer a more generous scheme for all of these types of leave.

Employers must also make statutory minimum payments during sickness absence provided the employee meets specific criteria.

Employees have a right to paid time off for various other reasons, but this tends to be restricted to time off within the working day to attend meetings where, for example, the employee acts as a pension scheme trustee or has an ante-natal appointment.

Some periods of leave do not, by law, need to be paid. This includes parental leave, bereavement leave and sabbaticals. However, from April 2020, qualifying parents will be entitled to take leave if their child dies, which will be paid at the time statutory rate as maternity leave subject to qualifying criteria.

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