It's usually the case that workers in the UK work longer and more frequent hours than employees from other European countries and as such, we are very precious over the amount of holiday we are entitled to take.
All UK employees have a right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave, including part time workers, who are entitled to the same amount of annual leave 'pro rata'.
How is holiday entitlement calculated?
Holiday pay is usually calculated as your normal weekly wage. For part time workers, holiday entitlement is calculated based on the hours you would work if you were full time. For example, if an employee is contracted to work 25 hours per week instead of the usual 37 hours, then their holiday is calculated as 25/37 x the full-time holiday entitlement.
Generally, employees are able to pick and choose when they would like to take their holiday, so long as they have given enough notice. The notice you give should be twice as long as the length of time you want to take off, so if you want to take a week off, you need to give two weeks notice.
Remember, rules about 'advanced notice' also apply the other way round - if you have put in a holiday request and your employer refuses it, they have to give you at least the same amount of notice as the amount of time you have asked to take off. So, if you wanted to take a week off, they need to tell you at least a week before the date you wanted to take it, that it is not possible.
For many employees, it is well within your employer's right to refuse time off if they believe that it will be detrimental to your work or to the business as a whole. They can also refuse to grant a holiday request if they need you to cover bank holidays or days when it is necessary for the whole company to take time off.
As well as being able to refuse holiday requests, employers can also ask you to take your holiday at certain times of the year. The most common instance of this is over the Christmas period, where many offices close down and employers ask their staff to take some of their holiday whilst the shut down is in force. Whilst seemingly unfair for many employees, who do not agree that they should be forced to 'spend' their holiday when they have not chosen to, this is a perfectly reasonable request.
Be aware that bank and public holidays can also be included with your annual allowance and that you are not automatically entitled to paid leave on these days. Whilst many people do in fact receive bank holidays off, you will need to refer to your contract of employment to see whether this applies to you. Some employers will offer to pay you 'double time' or 1.5 times your wage as an incentive to work bank holidays, however others do not give you this choice. Again, your company's policy on bank holidays should be stated in your contract or particulars of employment. If not, be sure to ask them where you stand.
'Carrying over' holiday leave
When faced with a hectic workload, many employees find that they simply can't find time to take time off. If you find yourself in this situation be aware that depending on your company's policy, you may lose any holiday leave that you do not take. All employees are entitled to holiday so it really is important to fit in time off wherever possible to avoid burn out and other issues related to overwork.
Speak to your employer about your workload - you will probably find that they are mortified that you feel you cannot take holiday and will re-delegate some of your work to help. However, many companies allow you to carry over a certain amount of holiday into the next holiday year - for example, local authorities tend to allow employees to carry over a maximum of 10 days holiday if they are not able to take it within the specified time.
What happens if you fall ill whilst on holiday leave?
If you have booked time off work but fall ill either during your holiday or just before you are due to take it, you can ask your employer to convert your holiday leave to sick leave and retain your entitlement for later in the year. Contrary to popular belief, if this then results in you not being able to take all of your holiday leave within the specified holiday year; new regulations mean that you are able to carry this entitlement over to the following year (www.direct.gov.uk) without 'losing it' and your employer cannot refuse to honour this.
What happens to holiday entitlement once you leave your job?
If you decide to leave your job and have not yet taken all of your holiday entitlement, you are well within your rights to take this holiday during your notice period.
Many employers would prefer that you do not take the remaining holiday at this time and would rather you could work for the entirety of your notice period - the main reason for this could be that they need you to complete a handover period for the person taking over your job. However, if this is the case or if you don't want to take any extra time off during your notice period, you are then entitled to receive payment for this holiday in your final pay packet.