Your entitlement to annual leave or holidays from work is set out in legislation and in your contract of employment. Legislation gives various entitlements to leave from work. These include annual leave, public holidays, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoptive leave, carer's leave, parental leave and other types of leave from work. It is also important to note that the periods of leave provided for by legislation are the minimum entitlements only, you and your employer may agree to additional entitlements.
In the case of agency employees, the party who pays the 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 the entitlement.
Taking annual leave
The Act provides for a basic annual paid leave entitlement of 4 weeks, although an employee's contract could give greater rights.
It is for your employer to decide when annual leave may be taken, but this is subject to a number of conditions. Your employer must take into account your family responsibilities, opportunities for rest and recreation that are available to you and to consult with you (or your union) at least one month before the leave is to be taken. In addition, annual leave should be taken within the appropriate leave year or with your consent, within 6 months of the relevant leave year. Further holding over (also known as carrying-over) of annual leave at your wish is a matter for agreement between you and your employer.
Holiday pay: Pay in respect of annual leave is paid in advance at the normal weekly rate. If your pay varies because, for example, of commission or bonus payments, your pay for your holidays is the average of your pay over the 13 weeks before you take holidays.
Annual leave and sick leave
If you are ill while you are on annual leave, you should get a medical certificate from your family doctor (GP) as soon as possible to cover the days that you were sick and give this to your employer as soon as you return to work. In this way, the sick days will not count as annual leave and will be available to you at a later date. An employer cannot require you to take annual leave for a certified period of illness.
An amendment to the Workplace Relations Act 2015 made changes to how statutory annual leave is managed when an employee is on certified sick leave. These changes took effect on 1 August 2015 and include:
- An employee’s annual statutory leave entitlement continues to build up during a period of certified sick leave.
- An employee, who due to illness cannot take annual leave during the relevant leave year or the normal carryover period of 6 months, is entitled to an extended carryover period of 15 months after the leave year to take their accrued annual leave.
- If an employee leaves their job they are entitled to payment in lieu for any annual leave that accrued and was untaken as a result of illness. This payment in lieu only applies if you leave your employment up to 15 months after the end of the leave year during which the statutory leave entitlement accrued.
Annual leave and other leave
Annual leave is not affected by other leave provided for by law. Time spent on maternity 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 and this time can be used to accumulate annual leave entitlement - see 'Calculating annual leave' below.
Annual leave and leaving employment
It is illegal under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 for an employer to pay an allowance in lieu of the minimum statutory holiday entitlement of an employee unless the employment relationship is terminated. In general, your annual leave is calculated on the basis of hours worked.
If you are leaving a job you are entitled to receive payment for any outstanding annual leave and public holidays due to you.
Lay off or short-time working
During lay off or short-time working, you still are employed by your employer and your contract of employment remains in force. This means that you are entitled to benefit for any public holidays that occur during the first 13 weeks of lay off. You do not accrue annual leave during lay off but you are entitled to take annual leave that you accrued before being laid off.
Calculating annual leave
Under Section 19 (1) of the Act you are entitled to a basic annual paid leave entitlement of 4 weeks. There are 3 different ways of calculating your annual leave entitlement:
- Based on the employee's working hours during what is called the leave year, which runs from April to March. An employee who has worked at least 1,365 hours in a leave year is entitled to the maximum of 4 working weeks' paid annual leave unless it is a leave year in which they change employment. Many employers use the calendar year (January-December) instead of the official leave year to calculate entitlement
- By allowing 1/3 of a working week for each calendar month in which the employee has worked at least 117 hours
- 8% of the hours worked in the leave year, subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks
An employee may use whichever of these methods gives the greater entitlement. When calculating the entitlement, employers should include all hours 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.
An employee who has worked for at least 8 months is entitled to an unbroken period of 2 weeks' annual leave.
Part-time work: Generally, the annual leave for part-time workers is calculated using the 3rd method, that is, 8% of hours worked. If you work full time for some months and the rest of the year you work part time, you should calculate the leave for the full-time and the part-time periods of work separately.
How to apply
You can find out more about annual leave in this explanatory booklet on holidays and public holidays (pdf) or from the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service - see 'Where to apply' below.
If you are not getting your holiday entitlement you may make a complaint under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 within 6 months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.