Taking your paid holiday

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You can usually take your holiday when you want to but there are some steps you’ll need to follow to arrange it with your employer. 

To take your holiday, you’ll need to 

  • check when you can take it

  • give the right amount of notice to your employer - that means giving them enough advance warning of when you want to take your holiday

If you’re not sure if you’re entitled to paid holidays, you can check if you are.

Check when you can take your holiday

You’ll have to check:

  • when your ‘leave year’ begins and ends - this is the year you have to take your holiday in

  • if your employer has said you have to take holiday at a certain time

Check when your leave year begins and ends

A leave year is the year in which you have to take your holiday. It might not be the same as the calendar year. For example, it could run from 1 April one year until 31 March the next year. You normally have to use your holiday entitlement in the leave year it relates to. 

Your employer can refuse your holiday request if you’ve used up all your holiday entitlement for that leave year.

Check your contract to find out what your leave year is. If it’s not in your contract, check your company’s intranet or ask your HR department. The leave year might also be in your company’s holiday policy or in an agreement which covers your workplace. 

If there’s nothing about your leave year in your contract or workplace agreement, it starts:

  • on the day you started work for your employer and on the anniversary of that day in each year after that

  • on 1 October if you started working for your employer on or before 1 October 1998

If you're getting near to the end of the leave year

You might lose your holiday if you haven’t given enough notice to take your remaining holiday before the end of the leave year. You can ask for it, but your employer doesn’t have to let you take it.

If you haven’t taken your leave because your employer kept refusing your requests, you’re likely to be in a stronger position than if you weren’t organised enough to book your holiday in time.

Try to negotiate with your employer - if they won’t let you take it all, they might let you carry some holiday over into your next leave year.

If you can’t take all your holiday in the leave year

Check your contract or your employer’s holiday policy to see what it says about carrying over holiday from one leave year to the next. 

If there’s nothing there, you can only carry over holiday if:

Check if your employer has said when you must take holiday

Your employer can say you have to take your holidays at a particular time. For example, they might:

  • say in your contract when you can take holiday - like in school holidays if you’re a teacher

  • tell you to take holiday when the workplace is closed - like at Christmas

  • tell you to take holiday if you haven’t taken enough - like if it’s close to the end of the leave year and you’ve still got holiday to take 

Your employer must give you notice if they want you to take your holiday. The notice must be at least twice as long as the holiday they want you to take. For example, if they want to close for a week over Christmas they must give at least 2 weeks’ notice. 

The notice might already be in your contract - for example, it might say your company is closed on public holidays.

Check how much notice you need to give

After you’ve checked you have holiday available to take, you need to give your employer the right amount of notice. 

The amount of notice you have to give might be in your contract, your employer’s holiday policy or your workplace agreement. 

If it isn’t, the notice you have to give is twice as long as the holiday you want to take. For example, if you want to take a week’s holiday you have to give 2 weeks’ notice to your employer.

Check with your employer how to ask for leave. It’s best if there’s a record of when you gave your notice in case of any dispute later on. If you apply through an electronic system, that will record when you made your request. Otherwise, make your request in writing. 

If your employer has refused your holiday request

Your employer doesn’t have to let you take your holiday when you want to. They could refuse it - for example, if they’ll be short staffed or if you’ve booked all your holiday for that leave year already. They must give you notice if they refuse your request.

Check your employer has refused your request in time

Your employer must give you at least the same amount of notice as the length of the holiday you want to take. 

If they don’t, you’re entitled to take the holiday and be paid for it. You should explain to them that you think you’re entitled to the holiday because you gave the right notice and think they haven’t given the right notice to refuse. 

Make sure they know you’re taking holiday. If you’re right, they have to pay you for the holiday and shouldn’t penalise you in any way for taking it - but it could affect your working relationship. 


Mee wants to take a week’s holiday and gives 2 weeks’ notice to her employer. Her employer refuses that request because they’ll be short-staffed. They must refuse her request at least a week before she planned to go on holiday. 

Talk to your employer if they refuse to let you take holiday. You might be able to come to an agreement. 

Don’t go on holiday if your employer refuses your request and gave you the correct notice - it will be misconduct if you do.

If your employer keeps refusing your holiday request

Your employer can refuse your holiday request if they give you the correct notice. If they keep refusing and it’s stopping you taking your holiday, it’s worth talking to them to find out why. Read more about resolving an issue with your employer directly. If you can’t you might have to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

If they keep refusing your request so that you’re not able to take your holiday in the current leave year, you can claim they’ve refused to allow you to take holiday. You would have to start early conciliation within 3 months less one day of the date on which you wanted your holiday to start.

You might also be able to make a claim for discrimination if you think the reason they’re refusing your holiday request is discriminatory - like if they treated you unfairly or differently because of your race. You can check if the issue is discrimination

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Page last reviewed on 26 July 2019