Annual leave: What you need to know

No matter how much you love your job, everyone needs a break…

If you’re unsure of the rules, booking time off can feel like a stressful ordeal. But whether you work part-time or full-time, you’re legally entitled to a certain amount of annual leave – and making the most of it is absolutely vital to your workplace wellbeing (not to mention work/life balance).

To make sure you understand the process, here’s everything you need to know about annual leave:


What is annual leave?

Annual leave is paid time off work that is provided by an employer, which an employee can take for whatever reason they choose.


How much annual leave am I entitled to?

Workers in the UK are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday a year (which may or may not include bank holidays), and some employers might even offer more than this.

What this amounts to in days depends on how often you work per week.

For example:

  • Full time workers (e.g. who work a 5 day week) must receive at least 28 days’ paid annual leave per year.
  • Part time workers (e.g. who work a 3 day week) must receive 17 days’ paid annual leave per year.

If you work more than five days per week, you’ll still be entitled to 28 days’ holiday.

People who work irregular hours will also be entitled to a different number of days. To find out how much you’re eligible for, use the holiday entitlement calculator on


Will I get paid for my annual leave?

You’re legally entitled to be paid your normal wages whilst on annual leave.

This means that if you work set hours and/or your role is salary based, your income will be exactly the same as if you worked the time you took off.

However, if your hours/pay varies each week, your holiday income will reflect the pay you’d earn on average – which is usually based on the last 12 weeks you worked.


How do I request annual leave?

The process for requesting annual leave is likely to vary depending on your organisation.

Usually, it will involve asking for time off using an online HR system or form, or by contacting your line manager directly – specifying your start and end date.

Your manager will then review and approve it, providing you’ve followed the correct procedure (e.g. you gave enough notice) when raising it.


How much notice do I need to give?

The general notice period for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of holiday you want to take (e.g. 6 days’ notice for 3 days leave).

Your employer can refuse your leave if they have a valid reason, but only if they give as much notice as the amount of leave requested.

However, these guidelines will always vary from company to company.


When can annual leave be taken?

Although you’ll usually be able to choose when you take your annual leave, employers may have certain rules in place.

For example, if the organisation has shutdown periods (e.g. Christmas or bank holidays), you may be required to take annual leave during this time. If you don’t, you’ll still have to take time off – but it won’t be paid.

Employers can also restrict when leave can be taken – specifying busy periods as times when employees can’t take time off. For example, workers in some industries (e.g. retail), may be required to work public holidays, but can take the days off at another time.

For more details on when you’re allowed to take your leave, check your contract.


Can I carry leave over to the next year?

Your contract of employment will tell you how many days of leave you can carry over to the next year.

As a general guideline:

  • If you get 28 days leave, you can carry over a maximum of 8 days.
  • If you get over 28 days leave, your employer might also allow you to carry over any additional untaken leave.

However, this will also vary depending on where you work.

If you weren’t able to take your annual leave as you were on another type of leave (e.g. sickness, maternity) – some of the untaken leave may also be carried over.

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