Calculating & Working Out Holiday Accrual

In this article, we will talk about holiday accrual, what it is, how it works, how to calculate it and its main alternative.

Key Facts

  • Employees are entitled to 28 days of paid holiday per 12 months worked.

  • How that time is accrued is up to the employer.

  • You can work out holiday accrual by hour, day, or week for most employees.

What is accrued holiday?

Accrued holiday is the amount of built-up annual leave an employee can access. Each month, annual leave is built up which can then be used by an employee at their discretion (and, oftentimes, with line manager approval).

How does holiday accrual work?

Holiday accrual is the process of an employee accumulating paid holiday on a monthly basis. An employee begins earning paid holiday from their first day on the job. 

Holiday accrual works based on employee pay or annual salary and the number of days or hours they’ve worked. For every hour they work, they earn a percentage of pay rate that counts towards holiday pay. This builds as an employee works since it follows the method of accruing holiday based on the number of hours, days or months worked. 

The UK's Working Time Regulations 1998 legislation requires that companies offer employees 28 days (or 5.6 weeks) of paid holiday annually. 

The difference between holiday accrual and holiday pay accrual

Holiday pay accrual is the amount of holiday time that an employee has left over at the end of a 12-month period that has not been used or paid. An employee is entitled by law to payment for this unused holiday time, although you can decide how this is compensated, whether through payment or by honouring this holiday time at a later date. Holiday accrual refers to any paid holiday time accumulated, regardless of whether it’s been used or not.

Can employees decide when employees take accrued holiday?

An employee can decide to take their remaining holidays through to the end of their period of employment. But, if they do not choose to make this arrangement with you, as the employer, they must be paid their remaining holiday pay accrual. 

Unless you are seeking to put your employee on garden leave, you have to work with them to determine whether they want to use their remaining vacation. You cannot force them unless it is explicitly stated in their employment contract or employee handbook.

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Calculation: Working out holiday accrual

Holiday accrual can be calculated by: 

  • Hours worked per week

  • Days worked per week

  • Weeks worked per year 

This is true for most employees. But, there are also ways to calculate holiday accrual if the employee works irregular hours, has a zero-hours contract, works in shifts or works by annualised or compressed hours.

To calculate holiday accrual by days, determine the number of days (including bank holidays) that the employee worked, and then divide that number by 12. You can also calculate it weekly by multiplying the days worked per week by 5.6.

Example: Holiday accrual calculation

If an employee working a full year worked 20 days in a calendar month, divide that number by 12, resulting in 1.66 days. Since 1.66  isn’t exactly two days, they could take a partial second day or wait until they get up to two full days. 

In this case, the worker in question would be entitled to that many days per month. Remember that you are not allowed to round down holiday accrual by law.

Alternatives to holiday accrual

The main alternative to holiday accrual is up-front holiday plans, when employees are given their whole entitlement on their first day. This can be risky, as an employee can still be entitled to their full holiday accrual mandated by law, even if they did not work a full year.

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