Quick Guide to Minimum Holiday Entitlement

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 01/08/2018
minimum holiday entitlement

The importance of minimum holiday entitlement is often underestimated by business owners and managing directors. In this article, we aim to explain why paid employee time off matters and how to make sure you’re not breaking the law. 

Annual leave is an employee right, giving both part and full-time staff the opportunity to enjoy a well-deserved break. It’s a chance for them to relax and spend quality time with friends and family so that they return to the office feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. All workers are, therefore, by law, granted a number of days a year to do just that.

Every company should encourage its staff to use up their holiday entitlement. After all, it plays an important role in employee well-being, helping them to strike a work-life balance. It also has direct links with morale and productivity. However, the results of a new study from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), have raised concerns. It found that a staggering 2.2 million employees do not receive the legal, minimum holiday entitlement.

What is Minimum Holiday Entitlement in the UK?

The minimum holiday entitlement for workers in the UK  is 5.6 (28 days) a year. While the employer is not allowed to offer less than the minimum, they are allowed to give their staff more days of paid holiday time. 

Although employees are allowed to take as much time off as they need, minimum holiday entitlement means that only during 28 of them the employee will be receiving their regular pay rate.

While the part-time staff is also entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave, it doesn’t translate into 28 days. This is due to the fact that part-time workers work fewer hours a week than full-time staff, therefore they get less paid holiday time.

Self-employed workers and contractors are not classed as workers. This means they’re not entitled to paid annual leave.

Legal Right to Annual Leave

The above-mentioned regulations are stated by law, yet many workers feel unable to utilise this due to unrealistic targets. Also, many report having their holiday requests denied.

These figures mean that employees are losing out on approximately £3bn of paid leave every year. And as it turns out, women are worse off. In other words, millions of employees across the UK are getting cheated out of their time off - this is a crime. 

Lingering Threat of Burnout 

Legality isn’t the only issue that comes with employees not taking holidays. Working long hours, not taking breaks and not having time off lead to burnout. It is quite ironic because all three extremes are in place to either increase or maintain high productivity. Yet the consequence is the opposite of that.

Unfortunately, things don’t end here either. Burnouts can have a serious toll on the employee’s health, endangering both, mental and physical wellbeing. Ultimately, not only do burnt-out workers underperform, they are more likely to go on sick leave. Or, depending on how long or frequent the burnouts are, quit the job altogether. 

Claiming Holiday Entitlement

There are two key solutions when it comes to claiming holiday entitlement: contacting citizen advice or resolving the issue with the employer directly. Since we are not legal experts, we will only talk about possible resolutions through a conversation.

Holiday Request Denials

While employees are entitled to annual leave, the employer is in a position to deny a holiday request for a valid reason. For example, if the employee’s time off would cause understaffing during a particularly busy time period and is short-noticed.

There are other nuances such as having contracts that state how many consecutive days off can be taken, or how many staff members can be off at the same time. The employer is also not obliged to explain holiday denial, although it’s a good practice to be transparent. Keep in mind that this is only valid if this doesn’t hinder minimum holiday entitlement. In summary, holiday request denial can be justified, depending on the context. 

Unpaid Holiday Claims

Due to the COVID19 pandemic and mass adoption of furlough schemes, a lot of uncertainties about unpaid holiday claims have arisen. A previously rarely discussed subject made a lot of noise, complete with not just employment tribunals but also appeals and changes to how unpaid holidays are handled.

The key thing that became clarified is that not being paid for time off is an unlawful wage deduction. It has to be appealed within three months. The pandemic brought a lot of holiday entitlement issues within industries where workers haven’t faced them previously. This, in turn, has highlighted the fact there are sectors in which this has been an ongoing trend for long before COVID19.

Annual Leave Transparency

Minimum holiday entitlement issues don’t always come from a place of malice. Sometimes, it’s a consequence of outdated practices. For example, if your company is recording annual leave requests, holiday accruals and other time-off-related metrics manually, you are very susceptible to errors. And, in this case, your error may result in breaking the law.

Such methods also offer no transparency, and therefore even if this was an honest mistake, your staff will have no visibility of that. They will only be exposed to the consequence. But there is a way to prevent that from happening. 

Holiday Management System

The best way of tackling human error is by excluding humans from the process. We have developed Timesheet Portal to minimise manual data insertion that normally leads to mistakes.

Our Project edition includes holiday management software that will grant HR and your company total transparency with regard to annual leave. It includes features such as:

  • Booking and management of employee holidays, enabling managers to instantly view days taken and days remaining;

  • Graphical holiday calendar, facilitating better workforce management;

  • Analysis options to ensure compliance;

  • Automatic calculation of holiday pay if you’re a recruitment agency working with contractors.


As an employer, you are required by law to provide each member of your team with 28 annual leave days that are paid for. Despite this requirement, however, 2.2 million employees are not getting legal minimum holiday entitlement.

While some employers break the law deliberately by imposing malpractices such as threats of employment termination upon targets not being met, others fall victim to inefficient processes. For the latter, the best solution is to adopt a holiday management system.

Are you worried about your holiday-related compliance? Talk to us, we can help.

Free trial

See for yourself how you can save time and money. Enter your details below for a free 30 day no-obligation trial.
Cyber Essentials logo Cyber Essentials Plus logo

Timesheet Portal online software provided by Anfold Software Ltd, a registered company in the UK.