Holidays and leave

The Working Time Regulations 1998 came into force in the UK in 1998 and implemented the European Working Time Directive.

Holiday entitlement has progressively increased over the years and since April 2009 it has been 5.6 weeks (28 days) for full-time workers. The increase was enacted by the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007, which took effect on 1 October 2007, and satisfied the political intention to provide an additional eight days’ holiday per year for a full-time worker. However, the 2007 Regulations are careful not to introduce a right to have public holidays as paid leave. If a worker wishes to take paid annual leave on a public holiday, they must make a request to their employer in the normal way, who is entitled to refuse any such request if done in accordance with the procedures set out in the 1998 Regulations.

The normal entitlement of 5.6 weeks’ holiday a year applies to ‘full-time workers’. Where a worker is employed on a part-time basis, their leave entitlement would be calculated pro rata.

The simplest calculations would be where workers simply work less days per week on a permanent basis. For example, a worker working three days a week would only be entitled to 3.36 weeks’ (or 16.8 days’) holiday a year.

This issue becomes slightly more complicated when workers work irregular shift patterns that change on a weekly basis. In such circumstances, the ‘average’ working week should be calculated. However, certain difficulties arise in doing so, in particular because there is no statutory provision that provides a formula for carrying out this calculation. Instead, employers should calculate the average working week by first ascertaining how many hours on average the worker works a year and then dividing that by the number of working weeks in a year.