The BVNA IRS Helpline has received a spate of enquiries recently on the subject of holiday entitlement

How many days holiday should I receive?

Statutory holiday entitlement increased to 5.6 weeks per year on 1 April 2009. For anyone working a five-day week, this equates to 28 days per year and is pro¬rated for those working part time. For example, for an employee working three days per week, the annual entitlement is 16.8 days.

There are no plans to increase this entitlement in 2010.

Under the Working Time Regulations, holiday cannot be replaced by payment in lieu; the only exception being on termination of employment. The confusion seems to arise because this figure can be inclusive or exclusive of public holidays and depends on the terms of your employment.

Should I automatically get paid leave on public holidays?

Public holidays include bank holidays, holidays by Royal Proclamation and ‘common law holidays’. There are usually eight bank holidays each year: New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Early Spring Bank Holiday, Late Spring Bank Holiday, Summer Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. When the Christmas and New Year period covers a weekend, alternative week days are declared public holidays.

There is no law that gives an employee the right to paid leave on public holidays. Any right to paid time off for such holidays depends on the terms of the employment contract. However, even where the contract does not include this, the right to paid leave may have built up through custom and practice in a specific workplace.

There is no right under the law for an employer to pay premium rates for employees who are required to work public holidays, such as time and a half or double time. However, such arrangements often already exist in contracts of employment or have evolved through custom and practice.

An employer does have the right to make an employee take public holidays from the 5.6 weeks statutory holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

If holiday entitlement is inclusive of public holidays – for instance, 20 days plus public holidays – and the employee is required to work a public holiday, the employee should receive another day off in lieu in order to meet the statutory minimum entitlement of 28 days.

As this day is part of the annual holiday entitlement it must be paid rather than unpaid, even when a premium payment may already have been paid to the employee for working the public holiday. This is likely to represent a change for many practices and involve additional cost.

What happens if I am 'on call’ on a public holiday?

If an employee is required to be physically present at the place of work on a public holiday, then this is classed as ‘working time’ and the employee should receive a substitute day’s holiday.

An employee may be ‘on call’ at home and able to carry on with his or her normal activities without any restrictions set by the employer. If the employee is not called out then, there is no requirement under the law to substitute an alternative holiday. If the employee is called out and required to work, then the employee should receive time in lieu of the hours worked. If there is no call out made, then this is not necessary.

Where an employee is on call at home and there are restrictions on his or her activities – such as having to remain available for calls or to drive to the practice – the situation is slightly different and the employee should be given substitute time in lieu for the hours on call.

In summary

If there are questions around holiday entitlement, they are best approached by both parties in a spirit of openness and fairness, aiming to achieve an amicable outcome. Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support. Call 01822 870270 or e-mail


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) B usiness Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

• VOL 25 • No5 • May 2010 • Veterinary Nursing Journal