What Are My Holiday Rights In The UK?

What Are My Holiday Rights

As the calendar year draws to an end, so does the holiday year for many employees. But, do you know what your holiday rights are?

With many employees admitting that they don’t know their holiday rights, and with the average employee only taking 77% of their full allotted holiday entitlement, this seems like a good time to answer the question: what are my holiday rights in the UK and around the world?

The following article looks at a wide range of areas in trying to address the question: what are my holiday rights? They vary for employees, contractors and freelancers, but in each section we have tried to be as detailed as possible. If you think there is anything that we’ve missed, then let me know in the comments below.



Statutory Holiday Day Entitlement

Let’s start with the most obvious area, and the greatest concern for most employees: how many holiday days do I get?!

The statutory holiday entitlements for employees is set by the government. It is based on a calculation and depends on your contract and working arrangements.

For most people working full time, the holiday entitlement will be 28 working days per year. Here are a few common examples:

  • If your contract states that you work 5 days per week, you will be entitled to a minimum of 28 days per year in holiday
  • If your contract states that you work 37.5 hours per week, you will be entitled to a minimum of 210 hours per year in holiday (equal to 28 days per year)
  • If your contract states that you work 40 hours per week, you will be entitled to a minimum of 224 hours per year in holiday (equal to 28 days per year)


However, if you have specific working arrangements, I would recommend that you put your own figures into the government calculator to work out your entitlement:

Calculate Your Holiday Entitlement (gov.uk)

It is important to note that as part of your holiday entitlement, your employer can include bank holidays as part of the statutory entitlement. In the UK, there are 8 bank and public holidays each year. In chronological order, these are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday (Wit), Summer Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Therefore, for most employees, they will take the 8 bank holidays off and then have 20 days which they can take when they wish throughout the holiday year.

But, remember, this is your minimum entitlement. Your employment contract with your own employer may stipulate that you receive more paid holiday than this.



What Are My Holiday Rights In Other Countries?

Based on a Wikipedia article, here is a list of popular countries and of the Top 5 and Bottom 5 most generous countries in the OECD for statutory holiday entitlement:

What Are My Holiday Rights By Country

Those poor old Yanks!!



Career Breaks

Unlike holiday days, there are no relevant statutory laws in the UK relating to “unpaid leave” or “career breaks”. Instead, it will either be written into the specific employment contract, or is something bespoke that can be agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

Employees can make arrangements to return to work after a career break and many employers will offer the employee a similar role when they return from their break.

However, these agreements are not legally binding. As such, employees can’t take legal action if an employer decides they can’t return to their job or a similar one.


Parental Leave

For a breakdown of parental leave, see our previously published article:

Breakdown of Maternity and Paternity Rights


Sick Leave & Pay

If you are ill, you will need a “fit note” from a doctor after 7 days off work sick.

If employees are sick during their agreed holidays, they can legally take this as sick leave rather than taking their holiday entitlement.

Also, although many are not aware of this rule, any statutory holiday entitlement that isn’t used because of sickness can be carried over to the next holiday year.

Your contract may offer more favourable terms, and for the vast majority it will. However, the rules on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) are that you will be paid £88.45 per week if you’re too ill to work. You are eligible to receive this minimum from your employer if you have been ill for more than days and continue to receive this pay for up to 28 weeks.

Note also that you will only be eligible for SSP if you earn at least £112 per week before you are declaring sick.


Time Off For Family Emergencies

As an employee, you are also entitled to a “reasonable time off” to deal with an emergency related to a dependant (spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent or someone you officially care for).

Whilst your employment rights will remain in this period, your employer is not required by law to pay you.

In most cases, employers will offer pay in these situations under a “compassionate leave” agreement, which will also extend to attending funerals of loved ones. However, once again, this is not a legal requirement for the employer so you will have to discuss it with your own.



Time Off For “Public Duties”

Employees can be granted additional time off for certain public duties above and beyond their statutory holiday entitlement.

One of the most common of these is for jury service, and the time and pay for what you can claim in this scenario are outlined here:

Jury Service: What You Can Claim (.gov.uk)

Employees should also be allowed a “reasonable time off” if they are:

  • a magistrate (also known as a justice of the peace)
  • a local councillor
  • a school governor
  • a member of any statutory tribunal (eg an employment tribunal)
  • a member of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment
  • a member of a health authority
  • a member of a school council or board in Scotland
  • a member of the General Teaching Councils for England and Wales
  • a member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection agency
  • a member of the prison independent monitoring boards (England or Wales) or a member of the prison visiting committees (Scotland)
  • a member of Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel
  • a trade union member (for trade union duties)

Again, the “reasonable time off” is not set in stone and should be agreed between employee and employer on a case-by-case basis.


What Are My Holiday Rights – A Conclusion

All of the above outline your “minimum” holiday and leave rights as established by law in the United Kingdom. However, in each scenario, it is likely that your employer will offer additional rights, leave and pay in certain areas. Therefore, it is essential that, armed with the knowledge of these “minimums”, you speak with your HR representative to ensure that you understand your rights.

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of these areas, please let me know in the comments below.

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