Annual leave and public holidays over the Christmas period

As the Christmas holiday season is fast approaching, it is that time of year when businesses need to factor in annual leave and public holidays. Here is a summary on what your business needs to know and legally comply with along with a few of the more frequently asked questions from members.


For 2017 the official public holidays for Christmas and the New year are:

  • Monday 25 December
  • Tuesday 26 December
  • Monday 1 January

Some businesses may decide to include one or two company days as a type of paid leave but this is not mandatory.


How is annual leave calculated?

Annual leave entitlements can be calculated using one of the following methods:

  • 4 working weeks in a leave year whereby the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless during the year the employee leaves their employment).
  • 1/3 of a working week per calendar month that the employee works at least 117 hours.
  • 8% of the hours an employee works in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).

The maximum statutory annual leave entitlement of an employee in a leave year is four of his/her normal working weeks or twenty days if they work full time. This is on a pro-rata basis if they work part time hours.


Who is responsible for ensuring that annual leave is taken?

The employer must ensure that the employee takes their allocated statutory leave within the leave year. Failure to do this is a breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, however, with the employee’s consent, this leave can be taken within six months of the following year and ideally it should be taken as early as possible. It is illegal to pay an employee in lieu of their statutory annual leave entitlement unless the employment has been terminated within the leave year.


The only exception to this is when an employee is on certified sick leave which is ongoing. In this case, annual leave can be carried forward for a period of fifteen months after the leave year in which it was accrued.


How can our business effectively manage annual leave?

The employer can look at placing some reasonable restrictions to manage annual leave effectively. For instance it is recommended that:

  • Reminders are issued at least three months prior to the end of the leave year to those employees who have large amounts of “untaken” leave.
  • Where a large number of employees have not taken their annual leave entitlement yet and with the employer’s agreement, they could carry this amount into to the following year subject to the company policy. This would only apply to annual leave that is in excess of 4 working weeks.
  • Employers could look at a sell back scheme, where employees can purchase a particular amount of their annual leave entitlement at the end of the year.

Please, refer to the SFA website for more information on effectively managing annual leave.


Our business operates a shut down for the Christmas period. Can I request that my employees use their annual entitlement for the shut down?

Yes, however, a minimum of four week’s written notice must be given to employees that the company is operating a shutdown period and that employees are required to use their annual leave for this time period and ensure they have adequate leave outstanding to cover use for the shutdown period.


For further information on annual or public leave entitlements, please refer to the SFA website or contact Helen Quinn on 01 605 1668 or

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