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Annual Leave

The Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (as amended) (the Regulations) set down the minimum annual leave provisions for workers although some employers may provide more generous contractual holidays.  The Regulations apply to all workers whether employed on a full-time or part-time basis, temporary or permanent contract and to agency workers and freelancers.

Under the Regulations, workers have the right to:

  • 5.6 weeks’ paid leave each year (from 1 April 2009)
  • receive a payment for untaken statutory leave entitlement on termination of employment.

Statutory annual leave entitlement will be capped at 28 days.   Workers who already receive contractual leave which is 28 days or more are not entitled to an increase as a result of the increases from 1 April 2009

The provisions in the Regulations on holidays and holiday pay do not, at present, apply to workers in the armed forces or police or parts of the civil protection services where their activities conflict with the statutory entitlement to paid annual leave.

The 5.6 weeks may or may not include bank and public holidays. Workers should refer to their Written Statement of Main Terms and Conditions of Employment for details.

For further information on holidays and holiday pay see our Infomation Note No.3 Holidays, holiday pay and entitlements and http://www.delni.gov.uk/index/work/paidholidayentitlement.htm(opens new window)

Bank and  Public Holidays - Northern Ireland

 20132014
New Year's Day1 January1 January
St Patrick's Day18 March17 March
Good Friday29 March18 April
Easter Monday1 April21 April
Early May Bank Holiday6 May5 May
Spring Bank Holiday27 May26 May
Battle of the Boyne12 July14 July *
Summer Bank Holiday26 August25 August
Christmas Day25 December25 December
Boxing Day26 December26 December

* When the usual date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the 'substitute day' is normally the following Monday.

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Frequently asked questions about Bank and Public Holidays

This section answers some questions which are most often asked about UK bank and public holidays. It is written in general terms only and should not be regarded as a complete and authoritative statement of the law. The entitlement to paid annual leave is contained in the provisions of the Working Time Regulations.

Q

What are bank holidays?

A

Bank holidays are days in the whole or part of the UK on which banks may close for business. The law makes provision for certain payments to be deferred until the next appropriate day for this purpose.

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Q

Does this entitle employees to a holiday?

A

No. However, in Northern Ireland, bank holidays have become widely observed. Employees' terms and conditions of employment therefore commonly include entitlement to a holiday on those days.

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Q

What rights do employees have on bank/public holidays?

A

Any right to time off or extra pay on bank holidays depends on the terms of an employee's contract of employment. Even when entitlements of this nature are not explicitly written down, they may sometimes be incorporated by custom and practice (for example, where they have become part of the customary terms of employment in a particular industry).

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Q

When are the bank/public holidays?

A

There are currently 10 in Northern Ireland. These include Christmas Day and Good Friday which are common law holidays - they are not specified by law as bank holidays but have become customary holidays because of common observance.

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Q

What happens when bank/public holidays fall on a weekend?

A

Substitute days are customarily appointed for all UK bank and public holidays which fall on a Saturday or Sunday. For some bank holidays, these substitute days are laid down in legislation. In other cases, they are appointed by Proclamation by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The substitute day is normally the following Monday.

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Q

What happens to those workers who normally work weekends when certain bank/public holidays fall at a weekend i.e. Christmas?

A

Time off for the actual Christmas Day and Boxing Day would be determined by a worker's contract of employment which may have been explicitly agreed or incorporated by custom and practice.

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Q

Is there provision for special bank/public holidays?

A

Provisions in the legislation enable the dates of bank holidays to be changed or other holidays to be declared, for example to celebrate special occasions. The most recent examples of special bank holidays were for the Royal Wedding in 2011, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

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Q

How do I calculate holidays for my part time workers?

A

Part time workers are entitled to the same holidays as full time employees on a pro-rata basis.  For example, if a full time employee who works 5 days per week is entitled to 28 days annual leave, then a part-time employee who works 3 days per week is entitled to three-fifths of the full time worker’s entitlement (28 / 5 x 3 = 16.8 days).  

Holiday entitlements for part-time workers can also be worked out in hours, where the number of hours/days worked per week varies. For example, if a full time worker who works 40 hours (5 days) a week is entitled to 28 days (224 hours) per year, then a part-time worker who works 20 hours per week is entitled to 112 hours holidays per year (representing 50% of the entitlement of the full time worker).  Further guidance is available from nidirect (opens new window)and nibusinessinfo(opens new window) links

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Q

Can my employees insist on when they take holidays – for example, during term-time, out of term-time, to coincide with friends?

A

The time at which holidays are taken is normally a matter of agreement between the employee and his or her line manager. There may well be a clause in the employment contract that deals with such an arrangement, for example, rules, notice, rotas’ etc. In the absence of agreement, specific notice rules apply when workers are exercising their right to take statutory holidays under the Working Time Regulations 1998.  Workers who are covered by the Regulations are entitled to take 5.6 weeks’ leave a year. A worker may take the statutory holiday on such days as he or she requests  by giving notice to the employer, but this does not mean that they can demand when they want to go on holiday.  The maximum notice the worker gives should be at least twice the period of the leave to be taken. An employer may refuse the worker permission to take the leave requested within a period equivalent to the period of the leave by issuing a counter-notice.

For example, if a worker wants to take a day’s leave, he or she would have to give the employer at least two days’ notice. If a worker has given the employer the requisite two days’ notice, the employer can come back within one day to refuse the leave. This provides employers with flexibility where, for example, a number of other workers have also applied to take the same day off.

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Q

My employer insists that we take our holidays when the factory is closed, e.g. a week at Christmas and Easter and 2 weeks in July. Can he do this?

A

An employer may lawfully have rules regarding when holidays can be taken by employees, as stated in a written policy or procedure or established through custom and practice.  If such a rule exists then an employer can lawfully require employees to take their holidays at set times during the year. If an employer wished to introduce fixed holidays as a new policy he should consult with the workforce in the first instance to reach agreement. See Advisory Guide –

Advice on agreeing and changing contracts of employment

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Q

How much notice does an employee need to give when requesting holidays?

A

Employers and employees can agree how and when to give notice for taking holidays. If there is no such agreement The Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (as amended) states that an employee must give twice as much notice as the period of leave they wish to take, for example, an employee who wishes to take one week’s annual leave must give two week’s notice.  An employer is entitled to refuse the leave and if they wish to do so they must inform the employee of their refusal at least the same period as the leave the employee has requested, for example, where an employee has given two week’s notice for one week’s leave, the employer must give notice of the refusal within one week of receiving the employee’s notice.

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Q

I have given my employer 4 weeks notice of my resignation and I have 7 days leave left. My employer has told me I must take my 7 days leave during my notice period. Is this right?

A

Firstly look at your terms and conditions of employment to see if this situation is covered. If there is no guidance then under the Working Time Requlations your employer should give you notice of at least twice the amount of the leave left to take. ie in this case 14 days notice.

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Q

How should I calculate holidays for casual workers?

A

Casual work patterns are normally typified by short contracts, with breaks in between, where there is generally no continuity of employment.  While there is no definitive legal guidance on how to calculate holidays for casual workers employers could chose to make a payment representing holiday pay earned during each contract. For example, a worker who works for a period of 2 weeks at 3 days per week (15 hours) will be entitled to receive:

5.6 weeks (per year) / 46.4 x 2 = .24 weeks holidays due x 15 hours = 3.6 hours or .24 weeks x 3 (days) = .72 days   

This is only one option and should not be taken as a definitive guide for working out holiday entitlement for all casual workers.  

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Q

We currently give our employees 5 weeks holidays plus 8 customary  days, but they are insisting that they should get more because the law changed in October 2007.  We don’t think that we need to increase their holiday entitlement, can you advise?

A

The minimum holiday entitlement was increased on 1 April 2009 to  5.6 weeks (28 days for a worker who works 5 days per week) .  If you already provide your employees with at least this  minimum entitlement then the increase will not apply to them.

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Q

What about  holidays when employees are off  on sick leave?

A

Accruing annual leave during sick leave

A worker continues to accrue their statutory minimum holiday entitlement as normal while absent from work due to sickness. This is regardless of how long the period of sickness lasts.

Taking annual leave during sick leave

A worker is entitled to take statutory annual leave while on sick leave, if they wish.

If the worker chooses to take holiday while being paid statutory sick pay (SSP), the employer should carry on paying them SSP during their time on annual leave and count this sum towards the amount of holiday pay they are paid.

If the worker chooses to take annual leave while receiving occupational sick pay (OSP) at the rate of full pay, they are paid at their normal holiday pay instead of OSP.

If the worker chooses to take annual leave while they are on sick leave but they are not receiving any sick pay, they should be paid their normal holiday pay.

Changing annual leave to sick leave

A worker can choose to change a period of annual leave during which they are sick to sick leave. This would occur if they either:

  • become sick while on annual leave
  • have a period of sick leave that continues into a pre-arranged period of annual leave

Once the worker returns to work, they can then make arrangements to take the annual leave they 'missed' at a later date.

Where a worker is on sick leave instead of annual leave, they may be required to provide evidence of their sickness in line with the employer’s usual sickness absence procedures and in line with any eligibility criteria for OSP.

Carrying over annual leave that is left untaken due to sickness

If a worker is unable to take all of their statutory annual leave entitlement within a leave year because of illness, they may be entitled to carry forward the unused statutory entitlement to the next leave year.

If our answers or publications do not provide you with enough information please contact the Agency's Head Office: 028 9032 1442 - or our Regional Office: 028 7126 9639.

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