Time off work - holiday entitlement

You have a right to be paid for a certain number of holidays whether you work full time, part time or under a zero-hours contract. This is sometimes known as ‘annual leave entitlement’, or ‘statutory annual leave’.

Holiday entitlement

How much annual leave you get each year depends on how much you work and any agreement with your employer about extra holiday over the legal minimum you are entitled to.

The time you have off for holidays should be paid at your normal rate. Some employers may say your holiday pay is included in your normal pay but this is not allowed anymore.

How much holiday the law says you must have

If you are over 16 and work full-time, you are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks (28 days if you work a 5-day week) paid leave a year including paid public holidays. If you are in certain jobs, like the police and armed forces you may be treated differently. This is the minimum amount, set in law. Your employment contract may say that you are entitled to more. Be sure to check it carefully.

There are 8 public holidays in England and Wales - New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday, early and late Spring (in May), late August, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Bank or public holidays do not have to be given as paid leave but an employer can choose to include bank holidays as part of your statutory annual leave. 

This is just one of our resources to help you understand your rights at work. We also have help that explains agency workers’ rights at workpregnancy rights in workplace, the law on breaks between shifts and breaks during your shift, rights to paid sick leave,  your rights to pay including when employers can take money out of paychecks, rights not to be injured at work,  and how to resign.

Part time work

If you work part-time, you are entitled to paid leave in proportion to the amount of days you work per week. (You may hear this called ‘pro rata’.) You can work out how much you are entitled to by multiplying the number of days you work in a week by 5.6. This means that if you work 3 days a week, you are entitled to 16.8 days off a year. There is also a helpful holiday entitlement calculator on GOV.UK.

If you are self-employed

If you are self-employed you aren’t usually entitled to paid annual leave. You do have a contract, for example via an agency you might have different rights. Look at the ACAS employment status checker to be sure of your employment position.

When you can take your holiday

Generally employers let staff go on holiday when they want although most employers have a request process to make sure the workload is covered all year round. But, your employer has the final say over when you take your holiday, unless your contract says otherwise. For example, if you work as a teacher you cannot take holiday in term time!

If your employer tells you to take holiday at a particular time, they must give you at least 2 days’ notice for every day of holiday they ask you to take.

You need to give your employer notice when you want to go on holiday. If you have a contract of employment it might say how much notice you should give, otherwise you have to give notice of at least twice as long as you want to be away for. So, if you want a 2 week holiday you must give at least 4 weeks’ notice.  Your employer can refuse a leave request or cancel leave but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested. For example, if they decide you cannot have two weeks off at the time you have asked for they need to tell you at least two weeks before the date you asked to go on leave. 

What happens if you don’t use up all your holiday entitlement

It depends on the reason why you haven't used up your full holiday allowance. Next we explain a few different situations and what to do.

  • You just never got round to it - unfortunately that's bad luck unless you have the right to carry over holiday. Check your contract for details.
  • There’s a sudden rush of extra work to do - talk to your employer and see if they will allow you to carry some or all of your remaining leave over into the next leave year.
  • You are off sick - you may entitled to carry over up to 20 days of unused statutory holiday into the next leave year.
  • You leave your job or are dismissed - you are entitled to pay instead of the holiday you have missed so far (you may hear this called ‘pay in lieu’). For example, if you have worked half a year and not yet taken any holiday, you will be entitled to at least 2 weeks extra pay. 
August 2023

More information about annual leave 

For more help see Annual leave and sick leave. We have hand-picked the best accurate information available about annual leave in England and Wales available anywhere on the web, so that you don't have to.

About this guide

The information in this guide applies to England and Wales.

The law is complicated. We recommend you try to get advice from the sources we have suggested if at all possible.

This guide was written by Law for Life thanks to funding from the Bar Standards Board.

Law for Life would like to thank all those who provided advice and feedback on this guide and to Jude Shepherd from 42BR Barristers who peer reviewed the guide.

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