Types of Leave

Highlighting the different types of work leave: A guide for employers

First published on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

Last updated on Friday, Jun 14, 2024

From sickness to professional development, there are various reasons why employees might request time out from work. While some leave types have to be granted under law, others depend on the workers’ circumstances and your discretion as an employer.

With that said, it’s vital to understand the types of work leave entitlements for the suitable arrangement of support and continuity.

Read on as we highlight the statutory entitlements, as well as family-friendly and other types of leaves specific to UK employers.

Statutory Leave in the UK

Annual leave

Also known as holiday entitlement, annual leave grants nearly all employees 5.6 weeks of paid holiday each year. This includes agency workers, those with irregular hours, and employees whose workloads vary from one month to the next.

An employee can take annual leave anytime throughout the year unless specified in the annual leave policy. Whether it's for a relaxing holiday or family care, your employees must request the leave, and you can decline the leave request if done correctly.

Bank holidays

Bank holiday refers to any public holiday that may be decreed by statute, royal proclamation, or convention under common law. Any bank holiday that falls on a weekend will be carried over to the following week and normally held on a Monday.

The following days are public or bank holidays in the UK:

  • New Year's Day

  • Good Friday

  • Easter Monday

  • Christmas Day

  • Boxing Day

  • Early May bank holiday

  • Spring bank holiday

  • Summer bank holiday

It’s your choice as an employer whether to count a bank holiday within the statutory annual leave entitlement. You could choose to offer additional bank holiday allowances for greater worker satisfaction and retention.

The government website offers a detailed list of all bank holidays in the UK.

Sick leave

Employees are legally entitled to take time away from work due to illness. However, they must show evidence if such leave is to be granted for more than seven days—typically in the form of a fit/sick note signed by the employee’s GP.

If the period of illness falls before or whilst on a scheduled holiday, your employees can take sick leave instead and use their annual leave another time. And if an employee is sick for more than 4 weeks this may be considered long-term sick. Such individuals will still be entitled to annual leave.

Businesses must pay a minimum of £116.75 per week for sick leave—if eligibility criteria are met—extending beyond three days, with more potentially being granted through company schemes.

It’s important to note that this minimum amount is reviewed by the government every April and may change.

Female employee sick on couch taking sick leave

Family-friendly leave

Maternity leave

A leave period of up to 52 weeks must be granted to an employee having a baby. This is to be split into the following categories:

  • Ordinary maternity leave: covering the first 26 weeks

  • Additional maternity leave: covering the last 26 weeks

Your staff aren't required to take their full maternity leave entitlement. However, they're legally obliged to take two weeks' leave after the baby is born, or four weeks if they work in a factory.

The required level of maternity leave payment will depend on the employee’s salary in the eight weeks before maternity leave. The employer must pay at least 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks. A weekly payment of £184.03 or 90% of average weekly earnings—whichever is lower—must then be paid for the remaining 33 weeks.

Paternity leave

An employee who is the father, partner, or second parent in a same-sex relationship of an expectant mother is entitled to two weeks of paternity leave following the birth, adoption, or surrogacy of their children.

While some may take a single week, the entire paternity break can be taken in one block or separately. This will apply regardless of how many children are born or adopted.

Employees taking paternity leave must give the employer notice of their eligibility to take paternity leave by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, and then given 28 days’ notice of when they want to take the leave.

The level of paternity leave payment will be the same as for new mothers and is subject to change every April. Either £184.03 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings depending on which is lower.

Shared Parental leave

An employee may opt to share the parental leave with their partner. Such a request may be made with at least 8 weeks’ notice.

The entitlement to shared parental leave will depend on the amount of maternity leave granted to each parent. That said, eligible parents may take up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and 37 weeks of shared parental pay. The leave and pay must be shared in the first year following the birth or placement of the child.

Parental leave

Whether to spend more time together or explore school options, parents can take unpaid leave for the care of their children. 

The employer may only grant unpaid parental leave if the parent has been working for the company for a year or more. Such a request must also be made at least 3 weeks before the proposed leave period. There will be an entitlement of up to 18 weeks leave for each child up to their 18th birthday.

Adoption leave

An employee may be entitled to take paid adoption leave if they are going to adopt or have a child through surrogacy. However, the adoption leave of 52 weeks may only be taken by one parent, with the other having to take entitled parent leave or shared parental leave.

Financial cover for adoption will last for 39 weeks, with the parent being granted 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks. A further payment of £184.03 or 90% of their average weekly earnings—depending on which is lower—must be made for the remaining 33 weeks.

Time off for dependants (Emergency leave)

A worker must be allowed time off in the event of an emergency involving a dependant. This may be the case if a close family member falls ill and depends on the employee for support. 

While there’s no limit on the amount of time that may be granted, you might request a meeting if you feel that the employee’s work is being negatively impacted.

It is your choice as an employer whether to provide financial cover in the event of time off for dependants. Such policies might be detailed in the employee’s contract or your company handbook. 

Father taking parental leave looking after his babies on a couch

Other types of work leave

Carer’s Leave

Employees are entitled to unpaid carer’s leave for the direct care or arrangement of support for a ‘dependant’ with:

●     A physical or mental illness or injury that lasts more than three months

●     A disability as defined in the Equality Act 2010

●     Care needs because of old age

An employee may take up to a week off every 12 months for such provision of care. This may be split into whole or half days, as needed.

Any request for a whole or half day should be made at least three days in advance, with longer requests requiring double the notice period.

Compassionate and bereavement leave

Most employees will experience the death of someone close to them during their working lives. Compassionate or bereavement leave can be given to an employee following the loss of a family member or for life-changing emergencies.

Employers aren’t legally required to provide financial cover for compassionate or bereavement leave. However, you may opt to do so as a means of worker support.

How BrightHR can help

Hopefully, you’ll now have a better understanding of the leave types and entitlements that apply in the UK.

If you’d like further information about the different types of statutory leave then you should click on the links under the areas of interest. This will give you a better chance of navigating the types of work leave with clarity and fairness.

Of course, it’s impossible to predict when employees will fall ill or must care for loved ones.

However, you can make the arrangement of leave that much easier and less stressful with BrightHR’s attendance and absence management software.


Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

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