The first few months of the year often mark the beginning of a new year’s annual leave entitlement, which in turn brings the worry of whether you’ll get that holiday booked off work. Will you get there before Jane in Accounts nabs your spot? Can you take the kids camping this summer or will you be tied to your desk instead?
Get organised and know your rights so you’re more likely to be able to book leave for that all important quality time with the family.
1. Check your dates
The biggest consideration for most of us when booking that holiday with our annual leave entitlement is matching time off with our partners and family.
Obviously school holidays (especially the summer) get booked up pretty quickly and the other parents in your office will book off your perfect dates if you’re not careful.
You can find out your children’s school term and holiday dates from their school or nursery. Or alternatively most council websites should have these displayed.
Apply for the annual leave dates you want as far in advance as possible, to make sure you can secure that all important quality time with your little monsters.
2. Know your rights
You might have heard of maternity and paternity leave, but did you know that you can build up holiday entitlement during that time? You can also build up holiday while off work sick.
Your total annual leave should be agreed when you start work and be in a written contract, or statement of employment.
Unless it states otherwise in your contract, as a full time five-day a week worker you’re legally entitled to 28 days paid holiday per year – this is known as statutory entitlement or annual leave.
Note that bank or public holidays do not have to be given as paid leave. (Some employers choose to include Bank Holidays as part of your statutory annual leave entitlement – so your minimum annual leave entitlement of 28 days includes the eight Bank Holidays).
Part-time workers are also entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid holiday a year (5.6 weeks) – or equivalent pro rata.
Part-timers can work out their minimum annual leave by taking the number of days they work a week, and multiplying that by 5.6.
For example, if a worker is in three days a week, their annual leave would be calculated by multiplying 3 by 5.6 (which comes to 16.8 days of annual paid leave.)
Calculate your statutory holiday entitlement here if you’re unsure or work irregular hours.
Also remember that leave entitlement can depend on when you start a new job and if an accrual system is in place. (An accrual system just means that you get one twelfth of your leave in each month from your start date. So after three months of work you’ll get a quarter of your total leave.)
3. Check what extra leave you can get
If your employer is feeling generous they can choose to offer more leave than the legal minimum – but they don’t have to slap those rules that apply to statutory leave to the extra leave. (For instance, some companies reward their staff with extra leave after they’ve employed them for a certain period of time.)
Sometimes you might need time off for your family outside of your holiday time (for example to settle children into new childcare arrangements or look at new schools). The law says that working parents have the right to a period of unpaid leave called Parental and Dependency Leave.
This can be up to four weeks in a year (but no more than 13 weeks within the first five years of your child’s life) as long as you have worked for your current employer for at least a year.
You’re also allowed ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with family emergencies (a spa break doesn’t count, nor does a planned appointment.) Check your contract to see if you’re paid for this leave.
Find out more about the four main types of leave mums can take from work including holiday entitlement, maternity leave, parental leave and family emergencies.
4. Booking your leave
This can differ from job to job but in general the notice period is at least twice as long as the amount of leave a worker wants to take (e.g. two days’ notice for one day’s leave) unless your contract specifies something different.
What to do if your leave is refused?
Remember, although employers can deny you leave at your requested time, they can’t refuse to give it to you at all. If your employer does refuse, they must give as much notice as the amount of leave you requested e.g. if you wanted two weeks off – they have to give you two weeks’ notice of refusal.
Unfortunately employers are well within their rights to restrict when leave can be taken (for example during super busy periods, or if the office is very short staffed).
If you feel like your rights to leave and pay are not being met, there are ways you can dispute it. Start with an informal chat to your manager and hopefully you can reach a reasonable solution. If you’re still not happy, take a look at these guidelines to see when it is appropriate to send a formal grievance complaint and appeal that result.
5. Don’t lose your break!
Being a working parent can take its toll, and achieving a healthy work-life balance can be tricky. That’s why booking that break can make all the difference. In fact 45% of British workers said that having a break to look forward to was vital to their mental and physical health, and helped keep them motivated in the office. Well that, and chocolate.
Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks when they’re due. If annual leave is part of your employment contract then you’re fully entitled to take that allocation of days off. You’ve earned it.
Remember, you could lose your leave for that year if you don’t book the time off, as you don’t have an automatic right to carry over holiday that hasn’t been taken (unless this is written into your contract).
So make sure you make the most of your annual leave entitlement this year, for maximum quality time with your family.