Am I entitled to paid leave and how should it be arranged?

Under the Working Time Regulations, you are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks' paid leave annually (which works out as 28 days per year for those working 5 days per week).

The employer may include bank holidays within this entitlement.

Part-time workers are entitled to equivalent paid leave on a pro rata basis (i.e. reduced in proportion to their part-time hours).

The arrangements for taking this leave are sometimes specified in the contract of employment and sometimes in the company 'rule book', or a staff handbook. These arrangements must not be unreasonable.

Under EU law, your employer is not allowed to make it too difficult for you to take your holiday. This is because EU law treats the right to paid holiday as a vital part of the employer’s duty to take care of workers’ health, safety and welfare.

There are statutory rules that apply if the contract or rule book says nothing about holiday arrangements. Under these statutory rules, you must give notice of at least twice the length of the holiday you have requested. So if you want two weeks' holiday, you must give at least four weeks' notice.

Your employer should be consistent when dealing with requests for paid holiday from different members of staff.

If your employer’s refusal is unreasonable, it may also be a breach of your employment contract. Every employment contract contains an implied term of mutual trust and confidence. In some circumstances, refusing your holiday request might also amount to discrimination, harassement or victimisation.

Sometimes your employer may not want you to go on holiday at a particular time because of pressure on business, for example, because your holiday coincides with a very busy trading period. Under the statutory rules, your employer can ask you to put off your holiday, as long as they tell you in advance, giving you written notice at least as long as the holiday you have requested. For example, for a two-week holiday, your employer would need to give you at least two weeks’ notice.

Of course, in all cases, the employee and employer can agree to relax or vary the statutory rules on notice for holidays.

Your written contract of employment can contain rules about when you can (and cannot) take your holiday. For example, some contracts of employment contain rules requiring workers to take unused holiday during their notice period, or during an annual Christmas shutdown.  

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.