Expert advice

Legal advice: Can I take my annual leave when I want?

Holiday allowance is a legal right but when you take it must be arranged with your employer

Holiday allowance is a legal right but when you take it must be arranged with your employer


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Your annual leave entitlement is a contractual right. The amount of leave you are entitled to will be in your contract of employment, which will also detail how to request your leave and how much notice you need to give of your leave requests. 

Your contract may also allow you to carry over annual leave from one year to the next, although this is not an automatic right and will depend on your employer’s policies. 

Where you are allowed to carry leave over, limits may be placed on how much. This means any leave that is not taken or allowed to be carried over would be lost.

When you take leave 

Your employer may compensate you for any leave you are unable to take for work reasons – if it was not possible due to staff sickness, for example – but you must be allowed to take four weeks annual leave in any one leave year. 
If you have to take some of your leave at certain times of the year, such as during the Christmas period if your clinic is closed, your employer has a legal obligation to tell you. 

Similarly, your employer can refuse to allow you to take leave at certain times within the leave year. This could be during a particularly busy period, or if too many other people are on leave at the same time. 

Notice period

The general principle when requesting leave is that the period of notice is at least twice as long as the amount of leave. So, if you want to request a two-week leave period, you need to give your employer four weeks’ notice.

Similarly, if your employer is refusing your leave request, they have to give you notice that is at least equal to the amount of leave you have requested. For example, for a one week request they would have to give you at least one weeks’ notice of its refusal. 


Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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