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Christmas and summertime tend to lift everyone’s spirits. Children are off school, holidays are planned, and thoughts turn to good things to eat and drink and time off work. As an employer, however, ensuring you and your employees get adequate rest and recharge whilst balancing the needs of your business can be a challenge. It is not, however, simply holiday leave that you need to be aware of – sick leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, bereavement leave, compassionate leave – these are just some of the different types of leave your employees may be entitled to take. 

Furthermore, some types of leave come with a statutory obligation to pay the employee whilst they are away from work, others can be paid at your discretion.
In this article, we explain some of the most common types of employee leave entitlement and your rights as an employer regarding whether or not you have to pay the team member whilst they are on leave and whether you can prohibit them from taking leave at the time they have requested.

Holiday or annual leave

Most employees and workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks or 28 days of paid holiday a year, including the UK’s eight bank holidays. You can choose to offer more annual leave in an employee’s employment contract, however, you cannot reduce the amount of statutory annual leave they are entitled to. If an employee works part-time their annual leave is adjusted according to the number of hours they work. The Government provides a helpful annual leave calculator to assist employers with working out annual leave entitlements.
You can refuse to allow a worker to take annual leave at a certain time, but you cannot prevent them from taking their holidays at all. There is no general right for annual leave to be carried over to the following year if the employee has not used all or part of their entitlement within 12 months.
When it comes to giving notice, your employee needs to provide at least twice as many days as the period of annual leave that they are requesting. So a worker who wishes to take five days' leave must give ten calendar days' notice before the date on which leave is due to start.

Having an annual leave policy in place is best practice as it gives your employees better visibility on the rules and can be referred back to during disputes.

Sick leave

Whilst Coronavirus is still with us sick leave is one of the most common types of leave employers must manage. Interestingly there is no statutory obligation for employers to allow sick or injured staff time off work, however, most employers will include the right to sick leave in their employment contracts.
Even if you have not done so, there is a strong case for sick leave being an implied right. Furthermore, if an employee has been working for you for two consecutive years it is likely they will have an unfair dismissal claim if their employment is terminated because they have taken time off sick.
Employees who:
  • are classed as an employee and have started work for you
  • earn at least £120 per week, and 
  • have been ill or self-isolating for at least four days in a row
are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks.

You cannot pay your employee less than the statutory amount, however, you can pay them more. Provision for greater sick pay is normally included in the employment contract.

Time off for dependants, including children

If you employ parents it is to be expected that they will, on occasion, need to take time off to care for their children. Employees (but not workers) have the right to take a "reasonable" amount of time off work in order to make necessary arrangements to deal with particular situations affecting their dependants (including adult dependants).
The Employment Rights Act 1996 states that an employee can take ‘necessary’ time off:

  • to aid when a dependant falls ill, gives birth, or is injured or assaulted
  • to arrange for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured. This does not include the provision of longer-term care by the employee
  • in consequence of the death of a dependant
  • because of the unexpected disruption or termination of the dependant's care arrangements
  • to deal with an unexpected incident that involves the employee's child while they are at school
Time off for caring or making arrangements for dependants is taken as unpaid leave. When it comes to refusing what you deem ‘unreasonable’ time off for dependants, in theory, you can deny a leave request, but case law makes clear that disruption or inconvenience caused to an employer's business should not be considered in determining what is reasonable.
Furthermore, the nature of this type of leave is that an employee is unlikely to provide notice, instead, you will be informed that the employee either will not be coming into work or has had to leave work immediately.

Wrapping up

Managing and calculating payment for employee leave entitlements can be exceptionally challenging. It is therefore important to talk to an Employment Law Solicitor if you are unsure of anything. 
Below are three steps you can take now to ensure your interests are protected when it comes to employee leave entitlements:

  1. Check your employment contracts to establish the rights to various types of leave available to your staff members and whether or not they are entitled to payment above the statutory entitlement
  2. Ensure your HR systems are organised and kept updated concerning how much annual leave each employee has taken. It is also prudent to immediately record annual leave requests, especially over summer, so you can keep track of who will be on holiday at particular times
  3. It is best practice not to refuse leave without first speaking to an Employment Law Solicitor. By taking expert legal advice you can protect yourself from having a claim brought against you in the Employment Tribunal.

Additional useful information


In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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