6.5 Annual leave

Workers are entitled to paid annual leave of 5.6 weeks per year (the equivalent of 28 days for a full time worker, pro-rated for part timers). This entitlement may include public/bank holidays, of which there are normally eight per year in England and Wales. This statutory annual leave entitlement can be increased at the employer’s discretion, but while contractual leave may be carried over into the next holiday year, statutory leave should generally be taken in the year when it accrues. The exception to this is when the employee has been prevented by long-term sickness from taking all their leave in that leave year.   As the entitlement to paid leave comes to English law from European health and safety legislation, the aim is that the worker is encouraged to take the leave, and therefore the only time when the employer can pay in lieu is when the worker leaves with accrued but untaken holiday.

The contract will normally stipulate when the holiday year runs from and to, which will usually be either the calendar, tax or financial year or the anniversary of the employee joining. Payment must be made on a pro rata basis for part-years worked.

Employers may stipulate when holiday may or may not be taken, and how much may be taken at any time. It is common, for instance where there is a shutdown over Christmas and Easter, to require workers to reserve some of their time off for that period, and to allow more than ten working days at a time only with permission.

If a worker is taken ill during a period of statutory leave, they may choose to designate their absence as sick leave and take their holiday on another occasion. Conversely, while a worker is off sick, even if they are not entitled to company sick pay, they may designate some of their period of sickness as statutory leave and will be entitled to payment during that time, provided they do not exceed their annual entitlement.