UK Holiday Entitlements

So let’s get started! The new increase in holiday entitlements has caused much confusion. It’s bank holidays that cause the difficulty you see. Calling them bank holidays, public holidays, and worst of all statutory holidays gives people the understandable impression that they’re actually entitled to take them off. Not so. There is actually no legal entitlement to take any public holiday off at all. All the law says is that you’re entitled to so many paid days off in a year. Up until this month, it was 20. That just mean you had to be given 20 paid days off. Employers could count public holidays, Christmas day, the July shutdown, or whatever else into the total. So you get 20 days off plus public holidays? Well, lucky you, because your employer didn’t have to give it to you. In fact, they could have made you work on those days if they wanted.

Understandably, our entitlement to public holidays was a major campaigning point , and thus the government is increasing the minimum entitlement by eight days, to represent the eight public holidays. It’s being phased in, with an increase to 24 days from 1st October this year, and to 28 in 2009.

So you see why people get confused. From the start of this month I’ve received at least two dozen telephone calls like this:

“My employees get 20 days holiday, they reckon they’re entitled to
24 now!”

“Do you give them bank holidays on top of that?”

“Of course – I thought you had to!”

“Don’t worry, you’re fine as you are.”

Of course, I then go on to ask them about staff who work part time or have irregular hours, but if this applies to you, then you can work it out for yourself:

Actually, I realise I’m being lazy, so I’ll tell you. If you’re part time, but you work a regular number of days per week (e.g. three) then it’s easy. 24 days per year equals 4.8 weeks, so you just multiply your 3 days by 4.8 to get 14.5 days’ entitlement. You always round up to the nearest half day. In 2009 when it goes up to 28 days, this equals 5.6 weeks. If someone works completely irregular shifts, then it’s best to appoach it as a percentage – for every hour they work, they accrue 10.2% holiday. So, once they’ve worked 100 hours they’re entitled to 10 hours and twenty minutes paid holiday. No-one ever said it was going to be simple. For more examples, see here:

So how do we do for holiday in the UK? Employers I speak to vary in their views – I think most reckon the current leave entitlements to be about right. Some of course say it cripples their business. If you (or your employer) starts to fall into this frame of mind, then remember that even when the full 28 days comes in, we’ll still be joint bottom of EU countries. Workers in Germany get a whopping 39 days off each year, and only the Netherlands offer as little as we do. More here:

So if you’re one of the significant minority who’ve enjoyed an increase, then I hope you have a good time wherever you’re going!