A recent report released by the TUC shows that 1 in 12 UK workers are not getting their legal holiday entitlement.

The analysis estimates that 2.2 million employees are not getting the minimum paid leave they are due, but most shockingly the figures also show that 1.2 million are actually getting no paid leave at all!

The survey also showed that workers are losing out on nearly £3billion worth of paid leave, with women more likely to be affected that men.

So why is this the case? We can conclude through investigation that the main reasons why employees are not getting their legal entitlements come down to three main problems:

1-     Workers are being set unrealistic workloads that do not allow time to take leave

2-     Employers deliberately denying holiday requests and managing our peoples leave.

3-     Employers are not keeping up to date with the law.

People who work excessive hours at are risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes, which also impacts on co-workers, friends and relatives. It is interesting to note that another recent study by CIPD showed that the most common reason for long term absence across both the public and private sectors remains stress, accounting for 29% of total absence, and denying people the right to their holiday time could vey well be a contributing factor.

It is common that in the past many employers would have tried to get away with declining requests for paid leave however in the case of King v The Sash Window Workshop Ltd, the ECJ held that where an employee has been unlawfully denied the right to paid leave, their holiday entitlement carries over indefinitely until a time where they are given this right.

In addition to this piece of case law, the Government is also working on plans to crack down on employers guilty of this practice.  There have also been calls for a name and shame system akin to the one for employers failing to be NMW.

So how much leave are employees entitled to?

Employees are entitled to 28 days of annual leave – inclusive of bank holidays – this should be pro rata for part time employees.

When can I refuse a request?

The first step here is to make sure that you have a formal process in place for requesting leave. If the employee does not give adequate notice or their absence would cause significant difficulty for the business (if there are too many people already off for example) then yes you can refuse a request.

Can I cancel a request that I already approved?

It is not recommended to do so, however if you have approved a request and must cancel then you should give the employee double the amount of notice per leave term. I.e. for one weeks leave, give them 2 weeks’ notice

My employee would rather have pay than take the holidays? Is this ok?

In short no, if the employee has an enhanced annual leave entitlement (that being over 28 days at company discretion) then the company may decide to pay the enhanced element alone. Statutory entitlements should always be taken and not paid. Employers should encourage employees to use their leave and implement a system for monitoring how much leave people have taken.

When can leave roll over into next year?

Typically, there are three circumstances where this is allowed:

1-     If the employee is on maternity leave and therefor unable to use her leave. It continues to accrue and is carried over. Most women bolt this leave on to the end of their maternity leave.

2-     In cases of long term sickness absence. Again the employee has been unable to take the leave and it continues to accrue.

3-     As detailed above, when an employer deliberately refuses leave requests to the detriment of their employee.

Keeping up with the law on holidays can be a demanding task whether it’s in relation to the carrying forward of holiday entitlement as a result of sickness absence or the calculation of holiday pay with regards to overtime. Thankfully, our team of HR mentors are here to help you navigate through this. Please get in touch if you have any questions on this area.


Number of UK employees not getting legal entitlement in 2017 by sector

Industry Employees (000s) % of employees in the sector
Agriculture 27 14.9
Mining/quarry 17 14.7
Manufacturing 184 6.7
Water/sewage/waste 10 4.4
Construction 97 7.0
Wholesale/retail 348 8.8
Transport/storage 97 7.4
Accommodation/food 223 13.9
Information/communications 78 7.4
Finance/insurance 48 4.1
Real estate 17 5.7
Prof/scientific/ tech 110 6.0
Admin/support 135 11.0
Public admin/defence 66 3.3
Education 342 11.3
Health and social work 291 7.4
Arts/entertainment/recreation 70 10.6
Other services 68 11.1


Number of UK employees not getting legal entitlement in 2017 

Employees (000s) % of employees
Men 1,000 7.2
Women 1,235 9.2
All employees 2,235 8.2



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