Holidays &  time off

It’s important to know your rights when it comes to time off. And it’s not just about planning a holiday! Sometimes you may need time off for public or workforce duties, or to manage personal emergencies and commitments. Understanding the law can help you to plan in advance, or speak to your employer about your situation.

Your minimum paid holiday entitlement

All workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday a year, under the Working Time Regulations. This may include bank holidays.

Most workers who work a 5-day week must receive 28 days’ paid annual leave per year. This is calculated by multiplying a normal week (5 days) by the annual entitlement of 5.6 weeks.

Part-time workers are also entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday each year, based pro rata on the number of days worked each week.

However, you may have a more generous holiday entitlement from your employer under your contract of employment.

You should also be aware that it is the right of your employer to decide when you can take your leave. This could be for reasons affecting the operations of the business or for staff cover. However your employer should make reasonable efforts to ensure that you are given the opportunity to take your full allowance of annual leave during the year.

Your employer should also give you the opportunity to carry over a set amount of days to the next year, should you have any left at the end of the year which you were unable to take due to sickness, maternity/adoption/shared leave. However this is not a legal obligation, and unused holiday at the end of a leave year may be lost.

Public / Bank holidays

You have no statutory rights to be off work on a public holiday or bank holiday, although your contract of work may give you this entitlement, either providing time off or extra pay.

Time off for sickness

If you’re sick for more than 7 calendar days in a row, your employer may ask to see a doctor’s ‘fit note’. You can ask your GP or hospital doctor for this, although they may charge for the service if you have been off for less than 7 days.

If you’re off-work sick for more than 4 weeks in a row, you may be considered long-term sick. Employers may dismiss an employee who is long-term sick, but first they must:

• Consider whether you’re able to return to work in a different capacity; e.g.working flexibly or part-time, or less stressful work.
• Consult with you about when you think you will be able to return to work.
• Consider any medical evidence

Sickness does not affect your entitlement to annual leave or holiday pay.

Time off ante-natal care

As a pregnant woman, or partner of a pregnant woman, you have the right to take paid time off for necessary antenatal care. You also have the right to paid time off when your baby is born or adopted, under the following schemes:
• Statutory Maternity pay (for qualifying employees)
• Statutory Maternity allowance (for mothers who do not qualify for SMP)
• Shared Parental Leave (for when parents wish to share the leave allowance.)

Time off for emergencies involving dependents

As an employee, you’re entitled to take time off to deal with emergencies involving a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care. There is no defined time off, as it depends on the situation. Your employer is not required to pay you for this time off, but they may choose to.

Time off for public or workforce duties

Everyone is entitled to reasonable time off to perform public duties, for example jury service, serving as a magistrate or serving as a local authority councillor. However, your employer does not have to pay you for this time – although they may choose to do so.

You may also have a workplace role that requires time off; for example as a Trade Union Rep, a Union Learning Rep, a Health & Safety Rep, or a company pension fund trustee. You are entitled to paid time off to fulfill your duties.