Greener BeeGreen HolidaysHoliday requests: How to get your employer to green light time off work

Summer might seem a long way away but if you haven’t already done so, I’d get that holiday form in. Your colleagues may well have already bagged July and August – and you could miss out.   

Arranging time off work can be a real headache. Even when you have holiday entitlement, choosing when you are able to book your holiday may not be easy.

All workers have minimum holiday rights, but businesses can set their own rules too. Here’s what you need to know. 

Minimum holiday entitlement

Workers are generally entitled to paid statutory minimum holiday, which is 5.6 weeks’ annual leave. This is equivalent to 28 days for people who work five days a week. Part-time workers are entitled to 28 days’ holiday reduced pro rata, depending on the number of days they work each week.

The entitlement includes bank and public holidays, and there is no specific right to time off on these days.

A worker must give notice if they wish to take statutory leave. And the notice must be at least twice as long as the length of holiday that they are requesting. So if you plan to take ten days’ holiday, you would have to give at least twenty days’ notice. However, employers may refuse the holiday request provided they give appropriate notice themselves. They must give at least as many calendar days before the start of the leave as the number of days they are refusing.

Usually the minimum statutory holiday must be used up in the same leave year, though there are some exceptions. For example, employees on maternity leave or long-term sickness absence can carry over unused holiday to the next year.

Contractual holiday entitlement

Employers frequently give their staff more holiday than the minimum leave required. The holiday entitlement will be set out in the employment contract.

The contract will typically state the number of days’ leave per year (including or excluding bank and public holidays) and that the employee will be entitled to their normal basic rate of pay during the leave.

It will also confirm the holiday year, which may well run from 1 January to 31 December, but not always.

Holiday rules

Provided employers comply with the minimum statutory holiday requirements, they are able to set their own holiday rules. These rules are generally found in the employment contract or staff handbook.

Usually staff must obtain prior approval from their manager for all holiday requests, and bosses have the right to turn down employees’ wishes. 

When dealing with holiday requests, there are no specific statutory requirements on how employers should prioritise them.  Many businesses though have a policy or unwritten leave etiquette, and requests are often handled on a “first come, first served basis”.

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Even if you do though make it to the front of the queue, you may not be able to take as many days’ holiday as you want. To minimise disruption, staff can be restricted on the number of consecutive days of annual leave.

On the other hand employees tend to be encouraged to take all their holiday, and could be precluded from carrying over leave to the next holiday year.

Matt Gingell is a partner at Gannons Solicitors, and specialises in employment law. Read all his articles and download guides at​

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