The amount of statutory annual leave that workers are entitled to under the Working Time Regulations Act has gone up to a maximum of 28 days. Publicity suggesting that all workers are now entitled to time off on bank holidays on top of an extra 8 days’ leave, however, is not correct.

Workers have never been entitled to a day off on any of the 8 public holidays of the UK, nor enhanced pay nor time off in place of working for one of those days. In practice, though, most workers have experienced paid time off on those days.

For many, the introduction of 4 weeks’ (excluding weekends) annual leave under the 1999 regulations came on top of paid time off on bank holidays so that the total reached 28 days. However, the new regulations allow employers to decide when leave is taken, and they can therefore enforce that 8 days of the basic entitlement are taken on the public holidays. The Employment Appeal Tribunal announced that this could be done either as a general company policy or at the request of employees who wish to take that time off.

It is estimated that 19% of workers receive less than 28 days’ paid leave, and that those most likely to have public holidays counted as part of their basic entitlement are low-paid workers such as part-timers and people from ethnic minorities. It was partly for this reason that the statutory entitlements increased, although employers still maintain the right to require their workers to work on public holidays.

The only workers who will receive the full additional 8 days’ holiday are those who normally work 5 days a week. For those who work 6 days a week, 4 weeks’ holiday (only excluding Sundays) has been available since 1999, so they will be entitled to just an extra 4 days’ holiday. Similarly, those who work just 3 days a week will now be entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday, equating to 16.8 days. This is an increase of 4.8 days from the 12 days’ leave that they were previously entitled to.

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