Know how much holiday to give your staff

Holiday entitlement and statutory holiday pay


Almost all workers above school leaving age - not just employees but also, for example, agency and casual workers - are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday per leave year (28 days for a worker working a five or a six-day week).

The 5.6 weeks is a minimum holiday entitlement - you can choose to offer more.

You can count any days off for public or bank holidays towards a worker's statutory holiday entitlement - but only as long as you pay them for those days off. See bank and public holiday dates.

Workers below school leaving age must have a two-week break during school holidays. Read more on employing children and young people.

When leave years may start

You may decide to have one date when your business' leave year starts or have different start dates for individual workers (or groups of workers).

If you do not have written leave arrangements, a leave year will start on the date a worker's employment begins and on each subsequent anniversary of that date.

Holiday entitlement: staff working a six-day week

The statutory paid holiday entitlement is capped at 28 days.

Although 5.6 weeks would equal 33.6 days for someone working a six-day week (5.6 x 6), because of the cap, staff working a six-day week are only entitled to 28 days' paid holiday. However, that is the minimum statutory allowance. If you wish you can increase the holiday entitlement under an employee's contract of employment.

Holiday entitlement and the contract of employment

You must set out an employee's paid holiday entitlement in their written statement of terms and conditions of employment.

This should enable them to work out their entitlement and pay for any untaken holiday if they leave. See the employment contract.

Workers not entitled to the statutory minimum paid holiday entitlement

The following types of worker do not have the right to benefit from the minimum paid holiday entitlement:

  • The genuinely self-employed, who can take as little or as much holiday as they choose.
  • Those whose jobs may conflict with the requirement to take annual leave requirements, eg the armed forces, the police, those involved in civil protection (these workers have to rely on their contracts of employment for their rights to holiday).
  • Workers in some sectors are excluded from the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 because they are covered by separate regulations. The entitlement to annual leave of mobile staff working in the civil aviation sector, for example, is governed by the Civil Aviation (Working Time) Regulations 2004.

Carrying over unused paid holiday

A worker may wish to carry over unused holiday from the current leave year to the next.

Under European Union derived law, a worker must take at least four weeks' holiday per leave year. If they take less than this, they cannot carry it over.

However, in the UK, the statutory entitlement is 5.6 weeks. What a worker may do with the additional 1.6 weeks depends on their employer's arrangements. You can either:

  • have an arrangement that workers must take their full statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks in any leave year
  • allow workers to carry over any of the additional 1.6 weeks that remains untaken into the next leave year - although they must take it by the end of the next leave year

If an employee has an additional contractual entitlement over and above the 5.6 weeks, it again depends on their contract of employment whether or not they either can carry it over or will receive pay in lieu for any of the entitlement that remains untaken.

If you do allow workers to carry over any contractual annual leave entitlement, you can have your own rules on when they must take it. For example, you could state that workers must take the carried-over leave within three months of the start of the next leave year.

Effect of coronavirus (COVID-19)
As a result of the introduction of the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 on 24 April 2020 there may be circumstances when a worker may be able to carry over up to four weeks annual leave into the next two leave years.

This will apply in circumstances where it was not reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of their leave in a leave period as a result of the effect of the coronavirus on the worker, employer or the wider economy or society.

If, however, you are able to facilitate a worker's leave, then standard rules will continue to apply. See Coronavirus: Rules on carrying over annual leave relaxed.