What is annual leave?
Annual leave (also called holidays from work) is paid time off work. All employees are entitled to annual leave, including full-time, part-time, temporary and casual workers.
Most employees are entitled to 4 weeks’ annual leave each year. This is set out in the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 and is known as your statutory entitlement. Your employer might give you more annual leave. You can check your entitlement to annual leave in your contract of employment.
Annual leave and other types of leave
Annual leave is not affected by other types of statutory leave (that means leave provided for by law). Time spent on maternity leave, paternity leave, adoptive leave, parental leave, force majeure leave and the first 13 weeks of carer's leave is treated as though you have been in employment. For example, time spent on parental leave can be used to accrue (build up) your annual leave entitlement - see ‘Calculating your annual leave' below.
How much annual leave and holiday pay am I entitled to?
Your annual leave entitlement depends on how much time you have worked in a leave year.
The leave year runs from April to March. Many employers use the calendar year (January to December) instead of the official leave year to calculate your entitlement. Your employer should tell you when your leave year begins and ends.
Calculating your annual leave
There are 3 ways to calculate your annual leave entitlement. You can use whichever method gives you the greater (biggest) entitlement:
If you have worked at least 1,365 hours in a leave year (see above), you are entitled to the maximum of 4 working weeks' paid annual leave.
You cannot use this method if you changed employment during the leave year.
Calculate 1/3 of a working week for each calendar month in which you worked at least 117 hours.
Calculate 8% of the hours you worked in the leave year, subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks.
When calculating your holiday entitlement, your employer should include all the hours you worked, including time spent on annual leave, maternity leave, parental leave, force majeure leave, adoptive leave or the first 13 weeks of carer’s leave.
If you have worked for at least 8 months, you are entitled to an unbroken period of 2 weeks' annual leave. This means you can get 2 weeks off in a row.
Holiday pay (pay for annual leave) must be paid in advance at your normal weekly rate.
If your pay changes from week-to-week (for example, because of commission or bonus payments), your holiday pay is the average of your pay over the 13 weeks before you take holidays.
Generally, annual leave for part-time workers is calculated using Method 3 above. This means you can get 8% of your hours worked.
If you work full time for some months and part-time for the rest of the year, you should calculate the leave for the full-time and the part-time periods of work separately.
If you are an agency worker, the party who pays your wages (employment agency or client company) is the employer for the purposes of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, and is responsible for providing your annual leave entitlement.
Can my employer force me to take annual leave?
Usually, employees can ask to take annual leave at specific times. Your employer can accept your request, or refuse your request.
Your employer decides when annual leave may be taken, but this is subject to a number of conditions. Your employer must:
- Take into account your family responsibilities, as well as the available opportunities for rest and recreation.
- Discuss your annual leave with you (or your union) at least one month before you are to take the leave.
Read about annual leave during COVID-19.
Can I ‘carry over’ annual leave to next year?
Annual leave should be taken within the leave year (see above). Depending on your employer, you can agree to take your annual leave within 6 months of the relevant leave year.
Any further carrying-over (also called holding over) of annual leave would need to be agreed between you and your employer.
Annual leave and sick leave
What if I get sick while on annual leave?
If you are sick while you are on annual leave, you should get a medical certificate from your GP (doctor) as soon as possible to cover the days you were sick. Give the medical certificate to your employer as soon as you return to work.
This way, the sick days will not count as annual leave, and you can take your annual leave at a later date. Your employer cannot make you to take annual leave for time you were on certified sick leave.
What happens to my annual leave when I am off sick?
Your statutory entitlement (legal entitlement) to annual leave continues to build up when you are on sick leave, as long as you have a medical certificate.
Carrying over your holidays
If you are on long-term sick leave and cannot take your annual leave due to illness, you can carry it over for up to 15 months after the end of the year it was earned.
If you leave your job within these 15 months, you should get payment instead of the leave you did not take due to illness.
These protections are set out in an amendment to the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
Leaving your job, layoff, and short-time working
In general, your annual leave is calculated on the basis of hours worked. This is set out in the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.
Leaving your job
If you are leaving a job without taking all the annual leave you are entitled to, your employer must pay you for the days you have not taken.
Lay off or short-time working
During lay off or short-time working, you are still an employee of the company and your contract of employment remains valid.
You do not build up annual leave during lay off, but you are entitled to take annual leave that you built up before being laid off.
Making a complaint
If you think your holiday entitlement is wrong, try speaking informally to your employer.
If you cannot resolve the problem informally, you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission.
You should apply using the WRC’s online complaint form. You must make your complaint within 6 months of the dispute (disagreement) happening.
The time limit may be extended for a further 6 months, but only if you have a ‘reasonable cause’ which prevented you bringing your complaint within the normal time limit.
Find more information about annual leave in this explanatory booklet on holidays and public holidays (pdf), or from the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.