🇬🇧 Time Off in United Kingdom

Alastair Samson
Alastair Samson
  • Updated

Oyster policy is denoted in purple.


Full time workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ statutory minimum paid time off per year, including public holidays. For those who work a 5-day week, this is equal to 28 days per year. There is an additional public holiday in Scotland and two addtional public holidays in Northern Ireland. It is customary for employers to offer more time off than this minimum (see table above). Workers not working on a full time basis will receive leave entitlement proportionate to the time they work. For example, someone working 3 days per week will receive (3 x 5.6) = 16.8 days per year. If an employee works part-time hours but across 5 days, they would still be entitled to the 5.6 weeks of statutory minimum. There is no limit to how many days off an employer can choose to give employees above the statutory minimum.


Time off accrual

Annual leave begins to build up ("accrue") as soon as a worker starts their job. Within their first year, new employees can use 1/12 of their holiday entitlement multiplied by the number of months worked. Time off typically accrues monthly, or at 1.67 days per month worked.


Time off requests and limits

Employers in the UK can establish with sufficient notice certain days on which employees must take their leave (such as public holidays or other). To do so, an employer must give notice equal to 2 times the amount of the leave. For example, if an employer wants an employee to take 2 days off, 4 days' notice must be provided.

Employees should usually observe a notice period for taking leave which is at least twice as long as the amount of leave an employee wants to take, plus 1 day (other notice periods may be agreed in employment contract or internal regulations - e.g. holiday policy). For example, an employee should give 3 days’ notice for 1 day’s leave.

An employer can refuse a leave request or cancel leave but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested, plus 1 day (unless otherwise agreed in the employment contract or internal regulations, e.g. holiday policy). It is good practice to refuse leave requests only when there is a reason for it. For example, a leave request might be reasonably refused if the employer will be short-staffed or the employee has already booked/planned all their for that leave year.

How much an employee is paid for holiday pay involves a complex calculation that takes, inter alia, the following factors into account:

  • Allowances;
  • Overtime;
  • Basic salary; and
  • Commission, if applicable.


Unused time off

Policies around unused time off and whether the employer allows any days to carry over to the next year is typically outlined within the employment contract. It is typical for employers to have a "use it or lose it" policy toward annual leave which does not allow any days to be carried forward. This does not apply for employees who were unable to take their leave allowance due to other types of leave, such as maternity leave or long term sick. Depending on the contract terms, Oyster may allow its employees to carry over to the next year up to a maximum of 5 days of unused time off.

Unused accrued leave must be paid to the employee at termination.



Reasonably common practice is to give full time employees 25 days holiday plus public holidays, and allow an employee to carry forward up to 5 untaken days to the next year.


Best in Class

Best-in-class companies offer 26-30 days of time off plus public holiday and allow an employee to carry forward untaken days to the next year


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