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With Christmas, and the end of most holiday years, in sight, November is a good time to review staff holiday entitlements particularly if your holiday year ends on 31st December.

Employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year, with no carry over to the next year. There is a maximum statutory entitlement of 28 days, which is 5.6 weeks for those working 5 days. Employees who work less than 5 days per week are still entitled to the same number of weeks; eg for an employee working 2 days per week their entitlement would be 11 ½ days (2*5.6, rounded up to nearest ½). The statutory holiday entitlement includes Bank and Public Holidays (such as Christmas and Boxing Day).

What if employees don’t take their full holiday?

Technically, it puts you in breach of the Working Time Regulations. Employees can make a claim to an Employment Tribunal for compensation in such circumstances. However, the Law Society says there is “doubt about whether a worker would be able to bring such a claim if they never actually applied to take leave”.

Therefore, as an employer, if an employee doesn’t apply for their full entitlement then you can take a risk and ignore it. But there is another risk, of course, and that is that they apply too late in the year and you have to refuse the holiday. Then you might be left arguing your case in a tribunal. Tribunal claims or not, such conflict substantially damages the relationship between you and your employee.

For this reason you may want review what holidays your employees have taken in good time, and remind them if they have too much entitlement outstanding.

Can employees carry over their holiday?

Generally speaking employees cannot carry over their statutory holiday until the following year without you (the employer) being in breach of regulations. You may, however make a contractual provision for employees to carry over up to 1.6 weeks of the statutory entitlement. You can also allow any holiday over and above that statutory entitlement (of 5.6 weeks) to be carried forward. We would advise against doing either of these. Administration of holidays is sufficiently complicated without including other options that need to be tracked.

If the employee is on sick leave then there can be a requirement to carry over some (but not all) of their holiday entitlement. Please contact us for details.

Can I pay untaken holiday as an in-lieu payment?

Employees often ask for this, especially it they have left their request late and you have had to refuse the holiday. But it is unlawful to pay statutory holidays as pay in lieu (other than when the employee leaves).

Are employees entitled to take Christmas even if I need them to work?

If you want employees to work on these days then you should have that specified in their written particulars (contract) of employment. In circumstances where it is custom and practice to work these days, such as in much employment in the care sector, an employment term would be advisable but not necessarily required.

Where it is custom and practice to take these days as holidays then you would be wise to allow them as holidays and not insist that they are worked. But holidays are an entitlement rather than a right and if you had good reason to refuse holiday on those days (to cope with an unexpected emergency for example) then the law is unlikely to stand in your way.

Are employees entitled to premium payments for Christmas Day and Boxing Day?

It is customary in most sectors, where work is required on these days, to pay a premium; although that is not a statutory requirement. In any event, employees are entitled to take such holiday(s) on another day in order to reach their entitlement of 5.6 weeks– although watch for those potential carry-over infringements.