Taking your holidays

When you take your holidays make sure you have given your employer the right notice and your employer should make sure they pay you the right pay. Find out what advance notice you need to give and how holiday pay is calculated.

If you want to take a holiday

You must give your employer advance notice that you want to take holiday. This notice should be at least twice as long as the amount of holiday you want to take. For example, you should give two weeks' notice for one week's holiday.

Your employer can refuse permission for your holiday as long as they give you notice which is at least as long as the holiday requested. So to refuse a request for a week's leave, they would have to tell you a week in advance.

Your contract may set out other rules about when you can take your holiday. This is allowed so long as the rules don't effectively prevent you from taking holiday at all.

If your employer decides when you take holidays

Your employer can decide when some or all of your holidays must be taken. For instance, they may require you to take some of your holiday to cover the bank holidays, or may require the whole company to take holiday during a Christmas shutdown.

This may be in your contract of employment, or it may be normal practice built up over time. An employer has to give the same amount of notice as you do.

How to treat part days                                                         

Your annual holiday entitlement may include what are known as 'part days' (for example 11.2 days for someone working two days a week). You need to ask your employer how they want you to treat these part days. They cannot be rounded down, but do not need to be rounded up to the nearest full day. An employer can, however, choose to do so if they wish.

Alternatively your employer might suggest you take a full day’s leave and just get paid for the part day you are owed. For example:

  • the part day could be taken off a day’s shift, so you leave early or come in late
  • the part day could be carried over to your next holiday year

Accruing and carrying over holiday entitlement

When you start a job you start accruing or ‘accumulating’ your holiday entitlement. Your employer will decide whether you can carry over any untaken leave days into the next holiday year.

Leave years

Your ‘leave year’ or ‘holiday year’ is a term that is used to describe the period in which your employer expects you to take your annual leave. In your contract of employment you may have an agreement with your employer about when your holiday year starts, for example it could be from the 1 January to 31 December for everyone in the organisation. 

If you do not have an agreement then your year will start on the date you started work and each subsequent anniversary of that date.

If you start a new job part way through a leave year then you will be entitled to a part of your leave, depending on how long is left in the leave year.

For example, if you start half way through the leave year then you will be entitled to half of your leave, increasing to the full amount when the new leave year begins. This will then be reset at the start of the new leave year. Also, if you leave your job part way through a leave year you will be entitled to a part of your leave.


Some employers run an 'accrual' system, where holiday entitlement is built up over the first year of employment. This means that for every month you work, you become entitled to one twelfth of your annual entitlement.

So, after six months, you would be entitled to a half of your annual entitlement. Accrual normally continues during legal absences like maternity leave.

Carrying over holidays

In the majority of circumstances, you do not have a right to carry leave over.

If you haven't taken all of your legal holiday entitlement during your holiday year, your employer may allow you to carry over the leftover days to the next holiday year.

You must take at least four weeks’ holiday a year, so only holiday on top of this can be carried over and then only if your employer gives you permission or if this is permitted by your contract of employment.

Impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19)

If you cannot take leave because of the impacts of the coronavirus on your work or your employer, you may be able to carry untaken leave into the next two years.

New emergency legislation was introduced to make sure that workers, for whom it is not reasonably practicable to take holidays due to the coronavirus situation, are able to carry over up to four weeks of unused annual leave into the next two annual leave years.

The term ‘reasonably practicable’ covers a number of circumstances and employers should consider various factors, such as:

  • whether the business has faced a significant increase in demand due to coronavirus that would reasonably require you to continue to be at work and cannot be met through alternative practical measures
  • the extent to which the business’ workforce is disrupted by the coronavirus and the practical options available to the business to provide temporary cover of essential activities
  • your health and how soon you need to take a period of rest and relaxation
  • the length of time remaining in the leave year, to enable you to take holiday at a later date within the leave year
  • the extent to which taking leave would impact on wider society’s response to, and recovery from, the coronavirus situation
  • the ability of the remainder of the available workforce to provide cover when you are on leave

If at all possible, employers should still be encouraging you to take your paid holiday. You should also make requests for paid holiday throughout the holiday year and if you're able to take leave, then the standard rules for carrying over leave still apply. Where leave is carried forward, it is best practice to take holidays at the earliest practicable opportunity.

Calculating holiday pay

You're entitled to be paid during your statutory annual leave. Your holiday pay will be based on your normal weekly wage taking into account any guaranteed overtime, non-guaranteed overtime, commission or work related travel payments. Where voluntary overtime makes up part of 'normal remuneration' this may also have to be considered for holiday pay. If your pay varies from week to week, for example, your holiday pay should be your average weekly wage over the previous 12 weeks.

Rolled-up holiday pay

Holiday pay should be paid for the time when you actually take your holiday. Your employer cannot include an amount for holiday pay in your hourly rate (called 'rolled-up holiday pay'). If your current contract still includes rolled-up pay, you and your employer should renegotiate it.


If you become ill during your holiday or just before you were due to take it you can ask to convert the period of holiday concerned to sick leave and take the missed annual leave at a later date.

You should follow the usual procedure for telling your employer you are ill. If you are not sure what your normal process is check your employment contract, staff handbook, or intranet.

If you’re unable to take all of your holiday entitlement within your leave year because of illness you may be entitled to carry forward the entitlement you would otherwise lose to the next year.

Leaving your job

When you leave a job - for whatever reason - you can take the statutory holiday entitlement that you have accrued up to the time you leave during your notice period, as long as you give the right notice and your employer agrees. You also have the right to be paid for any untaken statutory holiday entitlement that you have accrued.

If you have taken more leave than your accrued entitlement, your employer shouldn't take money from your final pay unless it's been agreed beforehand. Check your contract to see if there's any such agreement.

What to do if you have problems

If you are concerned that you may not be getting your full holiday entitlement, speak to your employer. If you have an employee representative, a trade union official for example, you can ask for their help.

The Labour Relations Agency  and Advice NI also offer free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

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