16th March 2022

Holidays: 3 top tips for employers

Everyone loves a holiday: a long lie and breakfast in bed; a trip away with family or friends; a bit of downtime. Whatever they entail, holidays are an important entitlement for workers. As an employer, it is important that you encourage staff to take them. Not just for legal reasons but a well-rested workforce is likely to be more productive and be more motivated.

Continuing my series on the working time regulations (WTR) this blog will explain the entitlement to holidays (or annual leave), the required notice to take holiday (by both the worker and the employer) and whether holidays or should be carried over in a particular year.

Holiday entitlement

A worker is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday each year. For a full time, worker, this will usually mean 28 days of holiday. Part-time workers will have those days pro-rated, but it will still amount to 5.6 weeks (of whatever their working week is).

The employer can choose what the holiday year should be and that is to be recommended to make sure that you have harmony across staff. If the holiday year is not specified then it will be based on when the worker’s employment began. For those who have started after 1 October 1998, it is the anniversary of their employment start date (for those who started before that the leave year begins on 1 October).

How much notice is required?

The worker must give a period of notice equivalent to double the amount of leave they are requesting. For example, if they would like 2 days’ holiday, they must give 4 days’ notice. The WTR provides that this is calendar days not working days, which could mean a longer period of notice. For example, if the worker wanted a week off (5 working days) they would technically have to give 14 (calendar) days’ notice, as that is equal to 2 weeks. It is possible however for the employer to require more (or less) notice than these statutory amounts. It is therefore always advisable to have a policy that clearly sets out required notice periods  

Similarly, an employer can impose a holiday on a worker if required. Again, the employer must give double the amount of notice as it is asking the worker to take.

It is possible for an employer to refuse a worker’s holiday request but the employer must give at least the same of notice as the amount of days being refused. So, if the worker requested 5 days of holiday and the employer wanted to refuse 3, then it would need to give at least three days’ notice prior to the commencement of the holiday.

Where you have a policy about holiday requests, a good piece of advice would always be to deal with request fairly but have an element of discretion for exceptional circumstances. Following a policy is of course desirable, but it can have the unintended consequence of indirectly discriminating against someone, which is why an element of discretion is always sensible.

Do I need to allow carry over of holidays?

In general, the answer is no, unless there is a specific workplace agreement about this. The statutory holiday should relate to the relevant holiday year. While there is nothing in principle stopping an employer and worker agreeing to carry over the holiday, that is unlikely to be a very common occurrence (or sensible, given that it will mean that the worker will have lots of unused holidays).

There are some exceptions to this which generally are because the worker was not able to take holidays. For example, if they were on maternity leave, then they should be permitted to carry the leave forward. If they were off long-term sick then again, they should be permitted to carry leave forward although in that case restrictions can be put this depending on the length of absence.

The worker should also be allowed to carry forward if they have not had the reasonable opportunity to take them. This places more of an obligation on the employer. While the employer does not have to mandate that the worker takes holidays, there is a positive duty to make sure that the worker can (and is encouraged to) take holidays. On that basis, employers should be reminding and encouraging workers to take holidays by reminding them of cut off dates and amount of leave outstanding, for example. The employer also needs to make clear that if holidays are not used then they will be lost. These are all good steps to put in place to avoid a worker saying that they have not had the effective opportunity to use their holiday.

If you have any question about this, or any employment law topic, why not sign up for our monthly Ask The Expert webinars?. Alternatively, please contact any member of the Blackadders Employment Team operating across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. We would be happy to help.

Blair Duncan, Solicitor


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