UK labour law: Working time and leave in the UK

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UK labour law regulates the rights and obligations of trade unions, workers and employers working in the United Kingdom.

UK working time

Your contract will state the number of hours you are expected to work and how much holiday you are entitled to. Sometimes you may be asked to work longer. You may choose to work more hours, but your employer should not force you to do so.

There are regulations that set out the maximum number of hours a person should work each week. In general young people between school leaving age and 18 years old should work a maximum of 40 hours a week or eight hours a day. For workers aged 18 or over, the figure is 48 hours a week.

For more information and advice about working hours contact the environmental health department of your local council or the National Health and Safety Executive (0845 345 00 55) once you are living in the UK.

Leave in the UK

All workers have a statutory right to at least 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave (or 28 days of paid holiday if you work five days a week).

Your employer may offer more than your minimum right to paid holiday. The main things you should know about holiday rights are:

  • you start building up holiday entitlement as soon as you start work;
  • your employer can control when you take your holiday;
  • you get paid your normal pay for your holiday;
  • when you finish a job, you get paid for any holiday you’ve not taken.

In order to qualify for the right to annual leave you need to be classed as a worker. If you’re self-employed, you have no statutory right to paid annual leave.

You do not have a statutory right to paid leave on bank and public holidays. If paid leave is given on a bank or public holiday, this can count towards your 4.8 weeks minimum holiday entitlement. However, many employers will provide paid leave on bank and public holidays in addition to your annual leave entitlement.

There are eight permanent bank and public holidays in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and ten in Northern Ireland.

If you work on a bank or public holiday, there is no automatic right to an enhanced pay rate. What you get paid depends on your contract of employment.

If full-time workers get paid leave on a public holiday, part-timers who don’t normally work on that day have the right to paid time-off on another day, proportionate to the hours they work.



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