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Paid leave in the UK.

Learn about paid leave in the UK thanks to Horizons’ up-to-date guide.

Horizons is where real, local hiring expertise meets world-class customer service. Quickly and compliantly hire employees in more than 150 countries worldwide, without the need to open a local entity.

Annual leave in the UK (holiday / vacation)

Employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days holiday, plus bank holidays. However, the standard allowance provided by most employers is 24 days plus bank holidays.

During the first year of employment, if the employee begins employment after the holiday year has started then their annual leave is pro-rata, with the full number of days becoming available in the second year.

Parental leave in the UK

Maternity leave in the UK

Maternity leave in the United Kingdom allows new/expectant mothers to take up to 56 weeks of leave, as long as they were employed by you before becoming pregnant. The first 26 weeks are known as ordinary maternity leave, with the second 26 weeks known as additional maternity leave. Statutory Maternity Pay is paid by the employer and it covers employees for up to 39 weeks. It is mandatory for new mothers to take a minimum of 2 weeks from the date of giving birth.

Employees must provide you with a minimum of 15 weeks notice before their due date.

In the United Kingdom, the first six weeks of maternity pay are paid at 90% of the employee’s gross salary. The remaining 33 weeks of the Statutory Maternity Pay period are paid at 156.66 per week, or 90% of gross salary – whichever is lower.

If an employee is not entitled to SMP because, for example, they became pregnant before working for you, they can claim  Maternity Allowance from the UK government under the same conditions as SMP. This is paid for by the social security scheme.

Paternity leave in the UK

Paternity Leave in the United Kingdom applies to the mother’s partner (including same-sex couples). Employees may take up to 2 weeks Paternity leave as long as they provide you with a minimum of 15 weeks notice before the due date and take the paternity leave within 56 days after the birth.

Statutory Paternity Pay is paid for by the employer at the rate of £156.66/week, or 90% of gross salary – whichever is lower.

Shared parental leave in the United Kingdom

New parents can choose to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) with Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). This means that at the end of maternity leave, the second parent can take the remaining amount of the 52 weeks of maternity leave. This includes the rest of the 39 weeks of maternity pay. SPL gives entitlement to the same allowance and pay conditions as maternity leave.

To qualify for SPL/ShPP an employee must have ben employed for a minimum of 6 months.

Unpaid parental leave in the United Kingdom

Employees with a minimum of 1 year’s employment are entitled to unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks. This must be taken within 18 years of the birth of the child and is subject to a maximum of 4 weeks per child per year, unless agreed otherwise with the employer.

Employees must provide 21 days’ notice in order to take unpaid parental leave.

Sick leave in the UK

Employees who cannot work due to illness are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This pays a minimum of £99.35 per week for a minimum of 28 weeks. Employees must provide a medical certificate after 7 days of absence to be able to claim SSP.

Although SSP is the minimum requirement, it is standard for employers to pay a higher amount of sick pay.

Standard practice is:

  • 0 to 20 days = 100% salary
  • from 21st day to 40th day = 50% salary
  • from 41st day to 140th = SSP applies.

Bereavement and compassionate leave in the UK

There are no statutory requirements to offer bereavement and compassionate leave in the UK. However, it is standard practice for employers to offer discretionary bereavement and compassionate leave. The exact amount of leave should be stipulated in your employment policies, and is often limited to immediate family and dependents.

Frequently asked questions

The minimum amount of annual leave in the UK is 20 days plus 8 statutory bank holidays (28 days).

There is no minimum amount of sick leave in the United kingdom per year. All employees are entitled to SSP, which can pay out for up to 28 weeks. 

There is no minimum amount of sick leave in the United Kingdom per year. All employees are entitled to SSP, which can pay out for up to 28 weeks. 

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