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When does my annual leave year run from?

For most workers, the annual leave year will be specified in their contract of employment.

Whilst many Employers coincide the annual leave year with a calendar year or perhaps the financial year, if this is not specified in the contract of employment or other contractual document then the leave year is governed by Regulation 13(3) of The Working Time Regulations 1998.

This confirms that in the absence of any other agreement, a workers leave year begins on:

1st October 1998 and each subsequent anniversary of that date if the worker’s employment began on or before this date; OR

On the date on which the workers employment begins and each subsequent anniversary of that date if the worker’s employment begins after 1st October 1998.

Do I have the right to carry over annual leave?

Workers should be aware that there is no statutory right to carry over annual leave unless the reason the leave could not be taken is due to Covid-19 (something which is now substantially less likely to apply than it was when this amendment to the regulations was originally implemented). Case law has also established an additional exception to the rule may exist where an employee is on long term sick leave and therefore was unable or unwilling to take that leave (though this is likely limited to leave under the working time regulations and not any additional contractual leave unless specifically provided for in the contract of employment).

Given that both of these exceptions are limited in nature, generally it will be the case that any untaken leave will be lost at the end of the leave year. Workers should ensure that they check their contracts of employment to ascertain whether there is any contractual right to carry over leave, and what (if any) steps need to be taken to ensure this is done.

Can my Employer force me to take annual leave?

In short, the answer is yes. Regulation 15(2)(a) of The Working Time Regulations 1998 allows for an employer to dictate when a worker must take their annual leave, provided that they confirm the duration of leave and give the correct amount of notice. The amount of notice to be given is set out under Regulation 4(a), which states that the employer must give twice as many days’ notice in advance of the earliest date on which they require leave to be taken.

For example, an Employer who wishes for a worker to take five days annual leave commencing Monday 19 December 2022 to Friday 23 December 2022 will have to provide ten days’ notice, prior to the first day of leave. This notice would therefore need to be provided no later than Thursday 8th December 2022.

However note that Regulation 15(5) confirms that this right can be varied or excluded by a relevant agreement. It is therefore important for all workers to check the terms and conditions of their contract of employment to consider whether a clause exists which would vary the requirement.

What happens if the correct notice to take annual leave is not provided?

Unfortunately, nothing. Whilst the notice procedure set out under Regulation 15(4)(a) is a requirement under The Working Time Regulations 1998, the regulations do not provide a right of action for a worker should their employer fail to comply with it.

However, that is not to say that a worker cannot raise their concerns informally or via a grievance procedure. Additionally, if a worker has a provision in their contract of employment which requires a certain notice procedure to be followed, and the employer fails to do this, this could give rise to a breach of contract claim.

Can my Employer reject my annual leave request?

An Employer is entitled to refuse a workers annual leave request provided that they give notice confirming what days the worker is not entitled to take leave, i.e. what dates of the request are rejected. Additionally the Employer must provide as much notice to reject the request as the notice requested by the Worker. This is under Regulation 15 of The Working Time Regulations 1998.

For example, an Employer who rejects a workers request for three days annual leave commencing on 19 December 2022, must reject the request giving at least three days’ notice in advance of 19 December 2022.

Of course, last minute requests mean that it is not always possible to provide the correct notice and as mentioned above, a worker has no right of action should an Employer fail to comply with the requirements of Regulation 15. However, workers should check their contracts of employment as this may give rise to additional rights.