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There’s a not insignificant number of employees who are about to see their annual leave start dates arrive with the new year. But how is annual leave calculated? What are the laws around annual leave in the UK?

There’s a not insignificant number of employees who are about to see their annual leave start dates arrive with the new year. But how is annual leave calculated? What are the laws around annual leave in the UK? We wanted to answer that question – and also give you a little Christmas present to help.

There’s one simple rule to annual leave that underpins all the confusion and complexity that can come with the subject: every person classified as a worker is entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of leave a year. That’s it, that’s the rule! Everything else is clarifying how that rule works for different people and extrapolating how it should be applied to different people, and those extrapolations are where the confusion comes from.

The rule comes from the Working Time Directive and is pulled from a European rule about the same thing – though the UK is actually even more generous than the EU when it comes to leave. In Europe, workers are entitled to 3 weeks of paid time off – whilst the UK adds its bank holidays on top, accounting for the other eight days, or 1.6 weeks. That’s 28 days for full-time workers.

OK, but that’s for full time workers, assuming a 5-day work week. Let’s play with some different work schedules and decide what kind of leave they should get.

What about for part-time workers? Let’s assume a part-time worker is working 3 days a week. The 5.6-week rule still applies, so we simply multiply the number of days they work per week – 3 – by 5.6.

5.6 x 3 = 16.8

You can’t round down, since this would result in an employee having less than 5.6 weeks off – so you round up, to 17 days. It’s that simple.

What about someone who works annualised hours? Say, 1500 hours a year?

Again, we simply need to find out what the equivalent to 5.6 weeks would look like by calculating how many hours a week they’d work on average. There’s 52 weeks a year, so we divide 1500 by 52;

1500 / 52 = 28.8

Then we can multiply 28.8 hours a week by 5.6;

28.8 x 5.6 = 161.28

Rounding up to a half-hour, that’s 161.5 hours of leave a year – or, about 20 days assuming an 8-hour long shift.

What about for someone working an irregular number of hours, say a casual or zero-hour contract?

This is a little trickier, but it can be done. If they’ve worked for you for a whole year, you simply take the total numbers of hours they’ve worked for you in the past year – let’s say, 1200 – and then treat their entitlement like they’re working an annualised contract, like above. Divide 1200 by 52, then multiply by 5.6

1200 / 52 = 23

23 x 5.6 = 128.8 hours

What if they haven’t worked for a year? Ideally, you should take the last 13 weeks and extrapolate from there ( 52/13 = 4 , so we would multiply the total hours worked over 13 weeks by 4), but if you can’t extrapolate from 13 weeks, extrapolate from as many weeks as you can.

Or… you could take the easy way out! We promised you a little Christmas gift, and here it is; HR and You now also have our own tool for calculating annual leave, and we’re very proud of how it’s turned out. Click the link below to visit the tool and give it a whirl!

HR and You Holiday Entitlement

Click here to see our online holiday entitlement calculator

Click Here

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This article contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.

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