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Taking time off

Holidays

"The bad news was that I lost my job - but the good news was that I got an extra lump sum of money because apparently I still had some holiday left."
Darren, Halifax

Make sure you are up to date on how much holiday you should be getting and that if you do miss the holiday at least you don't miss out on any money owed.

Annual leave

So, how much holiday should I get?
If you are over 16 and work full-time, you are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid leave a year less paid public holidays. (If you are in certain jobs, like the police and armed forces you may be treated differently.) This is the minimum set down by law; your employment contract may say that you are entitled to more.

What if I work part-time?

If you work part-time your annual leave should be in proportion to the amount of days you work per week. You can work out how much you are entitled to by multiplying the number of days you work in a week by 5.6. This means that if you work 3 days a week, you should be entitled to 16.8 days off a year less paid public holidays you do not work.

Should I be paid when I am on holiday?

Yes, you should generally be paid the same amount as you are normally paid at work.
Your employer might say that your holiday pay is included in your normal pay. This is nolonger allowed.

What about bank holidays, Christmas etc?

The 28 days can include bank holidays.

Do I get to choose when to take my holiday?

Generally employers let staff go on holiday when they want. But unless your contract says otherwise, your employer has the final say over when you take your holiday. If your employer tells you to take holiday at a particular time, you must be given at least 2 days notice for every day of holiday you are asked to take.

You need to give your employer notice when you want to go on holiday. If you have a contract of employment it might say how much notice you should give, otherwise you have to give notice of at least twice as long as you want to be away for. So, if you want a 2 week holiday you must give at least 4 weeks notice. If your employer objects to you taking leave at that time then they must give you notice equivalent to the length of leave you had proposed taking.

What if I don't use up my holiday?

It depends on the reason why you haven't used your full holiday allowance. If it is because you just never got round to it, that's bad luck. Your employer doesn't have to pay you extra for unused holiday or let you carry the remaining holiday into the next year.

If your employer kept refusing your holiday requests and you have missed out as a result, they are breaking the law and you could make a claim for compensation at an employment tribunal. See How to tackle problems at work in the menu on the right.

If you lose your job and you have not taken your full annual leave you are entitled to pay instead of the holiday you have missed so far. For example, if you have worked half a year and not yet taken any holiday, you will be entitled to at least 2 weeks extra pay.

Sickness

"I was getting really bad chest pains and had breathing problems. When they found out I had a blood clot on my lung I had to take nearly 3 months off work but I still had to pay the rent."
Mariam, London

Mariam was in a job which paid a full salary during her illness, but not everyone is so lucky.

Problems often arise when you go off sick, particularly if you are off for a long time or if you have to call in sick a number of times over a short period. Most employers will have a level of sickness above which an employee will be dismissed on capability grounds. An employer will not be required to wait indefinitely for an employee to return to work from sick leave. But a dismissal for this reason may not be fair if they have not given the employee a reasonable period of time to recover.

Find out what you are entitled to if you get sick

  • Many employers give staff a certain number of days' paid sick leave per year. It's up to your employer whether to do this. Have a look in your employment contract to find out what you are entitled to.
  • If you are off sick for more than four days you may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is set out by law and is paid to you by your employer. You have to be earning over a certain amount to qualify. To find out more about SSP and how to claim it have a look at the Directgov website (see Links to other websites to the right)
  • If your sickness absences arise from a disability then you should ask your employer not to count these absences towards your sickness absence record. This is a reasonable adjustment to your terms of employment. If this is refused or if you are dismissed because of these absences you may have a claim for disability discrimination.
    sick leave

I am not an employee; do I get Statutory Sick Pay?

Probably not, but you might do if you are an agency worker. Seek advice from an experienced adviser if you are in this situation.

What if I lose my holiday because I am off sick?

This is a complicated area of law, if you are in this position it is best to speak to an adviser at your local advice centre.

Can I be sacked for taking sick leave?

This may be unfair dismissal if your employer has not treated you reasonably (see the section on Dismissal in Ending a job, in the menu on the right).

If you call in sick often for minor things like colds and headaches your dismissal is unlikely to be treated as unfair.

What if my job is making me ill?

If you are getting sick because of conditions at work, your employer could be flouting health and safety requirements, have a look at Health and safety at work in the menu on the right.

If you are getting stress-related illness because of bullying at work, your employer could be held responsible and you might be entitled to compensation - have a look at the information on Bullying in the menu on the right.

Time off work in other circumstances

You also have a right to take reasonable time off work in the following situations:

  • Emergencies
    If something unexpected happens to a close family member, for example if your childcare arrangements have gone wrong. This would also include arranging and attending a family funeral. Your employer doesn't have to pay you for emergency leave, unless your employment contract says it's paid.
  • Study or Training
    If you are 16-18 you are entitled to take time off to continue your study or training. You should be paid your normal rate of pay.
    See Training at work in the menu on the right for more information.
  • Having a baby
    See the section on Pregnancy and children in the menu on the right.

What about if I need to see the Doctor or a Dentist?

Your employer doesn't have to give you time off for this, check your employment contract. You might have to go outside work hours, take annual leave or make the time up later.

But if you have a medical appointment in relation to your pregnancy or a disability you have, you should get time off.

My boss won't let me take time off - what should I do?

See our information on How to tackle problems at work in the menu on the right.

December 2011

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