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Can My Employer Take my Holidays Away?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 8 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Sick Sickness Holiday Employment

Q.

Can my employer take some of my holiday entitlement without my consent to cover a sickness period?

(Mrs Theresa Tonner, 7 October 2008)

A.

Like many employment questions, this seems simple but is far from easy to answer in a clear cut way because there are so many different regulations that can apply. It also depends on the legal relationship that you have with your employer and what Contractual Terms you have, if any. It also, to some extent, comes down to the best choice for you, regardless of whether or not your employer is trying to force you to do this.

Let's try to break it down step by step.

Different Employment Situations

First, you will need to decide how you are employed. Although the governments of the European Union are trying to make all employment law and regulations apply to all employees across the board, this process is not yet complete. Full-time And Part-time Employees are nearly on a level footing, but agency workers and contract workers are still lagging behind in terms of the employment rights and obligations.

We'll assume for the moment that you are full or part time, as an agency or contract worker is not likely to have any holiday entitlement with the person they work for in any case (that's as opposed to the agency involved).

If you have a contract it may state how many days off sick you can take with full pay and there is often then a second period where they will allow you to be on reduced pay. Eventually those periods will run out and you and the company will have to get together to decide how to treat your case, but until that happens, you cannot be forced to take holiday instead of sick pay.

Statutory Sick Pay

If there is no sick pay stipulation in your contract, there are government minimum guidelines which apply to employees. Employers must pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees, not for the first three days of sickness, but for the following 28 weeks. However, SSP is currently £85.85 per week, which may not be enough for many people to live on. The sickness has to be recorded for SSP to kick in, with a medical certificate from your doctor, which should be provided before the 8th day of the sickness period.

The bottom line is that an employer cannot force you to take Holiday Entitlement instead of sick leave, as long as you can prove that it is genuine sickness. But it might be a better choice for you, as taking holiday instead may mean that you will be better off financially, unless you have a contract with generous sick pay allowances.

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[Add a Comment]
Iany- Your Question:
I have booked holiday with my work and they have now decided that I have to work , are they allowed to do this

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms and conditions of your contract. If your contract specifies there may be an occasional need to negotiate a change the dates of annual leave for a valid reason, then this gives your employer a clause to make a request. Much also depends upon the reasons for requesting the change - if the reasons are valid, then it may be open to negotiation. However, if you have booked a holiday and it is not easy for you to change your plans, then there is a good enough reason to say no. Your employer can ask you to change the dates of your annual leave - but it cannot force you (if it has been previously agreed to you taking those dates).
WorkingRights - 8-Dec-17 @ 1:51 PM
I have booked holiday with my work and they have now decided that I have to work, are they allowed to do this
Iany - 8-Dec-17 @ 6:52 AM
My workplace have made us save 3 days annual leave to take over the Christmas period, we have since been told we now have to work 4 hours for 1 of those days. My company does not do half days, we are salary paid but they are willing to pay us 4 hours or give us 4 hours to take next year. However, I’m happy to work that day and only get paid for 4 hours and then take back my 1 day annual leave, but they have refused this! They basically want me to work half of my annual leave! Can they do this?!
Slb - 28-Nov-17 @ 6:17 PM
Hi I have take a 12 over my annual eave due to trying to give myself extra time to recuperate from an operation. I did not realise that I had taken so many until I went part timeI am willing to work back 1 day a week or take it as unpaid leave . This is the 2nd time this is happening can I be dismissed
Sylvie12 - 21-Nov-17 @ 11:53 PM
I was told that i had my annual leave approved and was given a signed slip to say it has been. Then i was advised i have some additional holidays to take so i put a few days in upon my return from this.annual leave i was told ive took to much annual leave and can no longer have my christmas holidays! If i had known i would never had took few days off. But now there being rude about it and i am left in a really difficult situation as almost feel like am being forced to work xmas day
Manda - 21-Nov-17 @ 11:26 PM
Markie - Your Question:
Since joining my company, available holiday days have been very limited and as such, despite using most of my holiday entitlement, I am unable to book any more time off before the end of the year (2017). I am left with 5 days of leave, and my employer is telling me that if I don't use them, I will lose them. Can they do this? After all, I have been requesting days to use the time and yet I am always told that I cannot. Should I be able to carry these unused days to the next years entitlement?

Our Response:
You would have to negotiate this matter directly with your employer. You should also read the terms of your employment contract which should outline whether you are or not allowed to carry your annual leave over.
WorkingRights - 21-Nov-17 @ 11:00 AM
Since joining my company, available holiday days have been very limited and as such, despite using most of my holiday entitlement, I am unable to book any more time off before the end of the year (2017). I am left with 5 days of leave, and my employer is telling me that if I don't use them, I will lose them. Can they do this? After all, I have been requesting days to use the time and yet I am always told that I cannot. Should I be able to carry these unused days to the next years entitlement?
Markie - 20-Nov-17 @ 4:03 PM
blondie - Your Question:
We are always told to save 5holidays for Christmas break but just been told on 17.11.17 that we need 7 days some of us have used up our other holidays and are being told that we now owe them days can the company do this

Our Response:
If it specifies in the terms of your contract that your employer can request you take holiday days over Xmas, then your employer can do this. You would have to re-read your contract to find this out.
WorkingRights - 20-Nov-17 @ 2:36 PM
We are always told to save 5holidays for Christmas break but just been told on 17.11.17 that we need 7 days some of us have used up our other holidays and are being told that we now owe them days can the company do this
blondie - 18-Nov-17 @ 4:59 PM
Nrj - Your Question:
My boss has made some changes recently and has sent an email stating that if we take any days off of work to care for our sick children we would no longer be allowed to take unpaid leave and that we would have to take the days out of our holiday entitlement. Is this legal? I was under the impression that we was legally allowed to take unpaid leave

Our Response:
You can see what you are entitled to by law via the gov.uk link here.
WorkingRights - 16-Nov-17 @ 2:08 PM
After some advice, my employer has asked us all if we want to come back to work after Christmas on 2nd or 3rd January. We are already due to come back on the 2nd. If we ask for the 3rd we have to use a days holiday. What if you asked to come back the 2nd because you don't want to use a days holiday and if the majority want to come back on the 3rd, will we forced to take the day off even though we don't want to?
Betty - 16-Nov-17 @ 9:28 AM
My boss has made some changes recently and has sent an email stating that if we take any days off of work to care for our sick children we would no longer be allowed to take unpaid leave and that we would have to take the days out of our holiday entitlement. Is this legal? I was under the impression that we was legally allowed to take unpaid leave
Nrj - 15-Nov-17 @ 9:17 PM
Lisa - Your Question:
Av been told by my employer that unless I cover other ppls annual leave I won’t get mine surely this is wrong

Our Response:
Much depends upon what contract you are on. If you are on a contract that specifies this as part of your job, then you are obliged to do what the job description requests. However, if your contract doesn't specify this and you feel you are being unfairly treated, you would have to try to speak to your employer directly regarding this.
WorkingRights - 9-Nov-17 @ 1:58 PM
Av been told by my employer that unless I cover other ppls annual leave I won’t get mine surely this is wrong
Lisa - 7-Nov-17 @ 9:47 PM
I just don't see why I should lose half a day's wage if im off for a week and I've worked the same amount of hours in winter as I do in summer
Clark wilson - 4-Nov-17 @ 11:38 AM
I work for a landscaping firm.my summer holidays are 9 hours per day which they say are averaged out,we're now into our winter season and our holiday hours are down to 8 hours per day although we are still working the same amount of hours as we do in summer.we work from 7am until 4:30 in the afternoon.we had a holiday last Friday and I was actually paid less than 8 hours even though I always work a full day and am never late.can anyone give me some insight into my rights here please?any help would be appreciated
Clark wilson - 4-Nov-17 @ 11:35 AM
Annie - Your Question:
Can my employer alter my terms and conditions. in my contract there has always been an entitlement to marriage leave, which is 2 days paid leave when an employee gets married.can they just do that?

Our Response:
Your employer must get your agreement if they want to make changes to your contract, please see link here .
WorkingRights - 3-Nov-17 @ 3:25 PM
@Brenda - you don't have to agree to the change in contract! You can choose to stick with the old one.
DanS - 3-Nov-17 @ 11:54 AM
can my employer alter my terms and conditions. in my contract there has always been an entitlement to marriage leave, which is 2 days paid leave when an employee gets married. can they just do that?
Annie - 3-Nov-17 @ 11:21 AM
My employer has historically given our staffan extra day off at Christmas time as a special thank you. I have worked for this company for over 33 years an this has always been the case. Now they have decided to take this holiday away from us with by simply missing it out of the new employment guidelines. Can they do this?
Brenda - 2-Nov-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi ,can anyone help me ,i have just returned to work afterfive months off ill ,i had accumulated five weeks of holiday over the past yearand i decided to reduce my hours to ten hours per weekon my return to work . Having taken my holiday owing to me i have only been paid ten hours per week for each of the three weeks holiday accumulated while working a sixteen hour week,i had informed them i should be paid the sixteen hours per week accumulated over the five monthswhile off sickam i right !!!
carol - 16-Oct-17 @ 1:12 PM
@Sandi - ha, that's a bit cheeky of your employer. So you've booked three days hol and your employer has said you have to work your usual days off? You should still get your Sunday and Monday off. You might have to work Tue and Wed as normal - but if your employer has asked you to work Sun and Mon, then you should get paid. Otherwise, it cancels out your annual leave allowance :(
HMc - 28-Sep-17 @ 1:46 PM
Saturday) which has been authorised. I normally work a 5 day week where by Sunday and Monday are my usual 2 days off. My employer has since told me I must work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week I've booked 3 days hols on. Am I now working a 6 day week and not getting paid for it?
Sandi - 26-Sep-17 @ 4:18 PM
I've booked 3 days holidays in the same week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) which has been authorised. I normally work a 5 day week where by Sunday and Monday are my usual 2 days off. My employer has since told me I must work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week I've booked 3 days hols on. Am I now working a 6 day week and not getting paid for it?
Sandi - 26-Sep-17 @ 4:16 PM
Blond viper- Your Question:
I have been off work for 6 months through ill health and due back soon but noticed they have talked all my holiday entitlement for this yr away meaning I have no holiday left to book till April 18 they pay company sick pay for 26 weeks which has now ran out so I only get ssp are they allowed to do this as I had sick notes to cover the period I was off sick. I have only taken 1 wk out of the 6.5wks I’m allowed each yr and have just noticed they have allocated the last remaining 3 days for the middle of nov when I haven’t requested it

Our Response:
You would really need to give ACAS a call regarding this, please see link here. Also, please read the terms of your employment contract before you give ACAS a call, so you are armed with the facts.
WorkingRights - 25-Sep-17 @ 11:24 AM
I have been off work for 6 months through ill health and due back soon but noticed they have talked all my holiday entitlement for this yr away meaning I have no holiday left to book till April 18 they pay company sick pay for 26 weeks which has now ran out so I only get ssp are they allowed to do this as I had sick notes to cover the period I was off sick. I have only taken 1 wk out of the 6.5wks I’m allowed each yr and have just noticed they have allocated the last remaining 3 days for the middle of nov when I haven’t requested it
Blond viper - 24-Sep-17 @ 2:47 PM
I have recently had an operation for which I was signed off for several weeks. My employer has paid me for the first 3 days using my holiday entitlement to cover me before the SSP kicks in. I didn't want to take these days as paid holiday as I now don't have enough holiday to cover my planned summer break. Can my employer legally take my leave from me against my wishes while I am signed off?
HonestGov - 30-Jul-17 @ 8:01 PM
I am on a 40 hour annualised contract. Shifts vary where I can work less as well as more than 40 hours. Rostered over 40 hours the + hours are 'banked' to cover our hours in winter. Currently on leave, which I submitted prior to roster coming out, where my employer has marked me in for 57 hours, +17 hours of a/L carried over to winter hours. Is this right or legal, as I cannot use these 17 hours as a/L later.
Rooster - 22-Jul-17 @ 6:23 PM
I've been off work with a spinal fracture for 3 months. There was some questioning at the beginning of my sick leave as to whether I was only entitled to SSP as opposed to OSP. My employer left me in limbo but paid me OSP. I did chase confirmation as there was a threat I may have to pay back if the decision fell against me. No clarification during my sick leave. Upon my return to work interview I was informed that they decided I should not have received OSP and would not going forward. We discussed occupational healths return to work recommendations (2days at 4hrs week 1, building up to 5 days 6hrs in week 6), which they argreed to accommodate but I would only be paid for what I work. Backed into a corner and knowing I had the best part of 4 weeks holiday accrued, I suggested that I take my holiday to fill in the gaps. They said they were not going to pay me twice as I shouldnt have received OSP in the first place and I have no more holiday entitlement. I did argue that they should have made that decision earlier and in that case they are now forcing me to return to full work (be it ammended 39hrs) against OH and medical recommendations. Can they do this? I know I'm not physically fit and my back gets tired easily but I need to pay the bills and feed myself.
Confused - 8-Jul-17 @ 12:51 PM
Hi I have been of work for 28 weeks with a fractured spine my employer as sent my last ssp payment but no holiday pay am I entitled to my holiday pay while been of sick
mitch61 - 10-Jun-17 @ 9:43 AM
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