Holiday entitlement – what you need to know

By Alistair August 29, 2023 06:12

How much time off are UK golf club employees allowed each year? What rights do employers have to control when their staff take holidays? As Carolyne Wahlen reveals, the answers aren’t as simple as you might think.

It’s that time of year again – the skeleton crew is in operation, staff disappear for weeks at a time, and you silently curse yourself for approving the holiday in the first place.

And if you’re trying to get your head around the whys and wherefores of holiday entitlement, you’re reading the right article.

First things first: How much holiday entitlement do my employees get?

’It depends’ is the short answer.

Normally this would be specified in their contract of employment.

If you don’t have any contracts, or, which is more likely, the contract is out of date, then the statutory entitlement applies – you can’t give employees any less holiday than the statutory minimum, no matter what is in the contract they signed.

(Just to be clear, neither of those situations are desirable, and we’d strongly recommend taking action to change that)

A full-time employee’s statutory minimum holiday entitlement in any year is 28 days, which can include bank holidays.

If you do want to give them more than the statutory, you can specify that in their contract, but it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do, you’ll need to give it to part-time / zero-hours workers as well, on a pro-rata basis; otherwise, you’ll be discriminating against part-time workers.

Which – in case you hadn’t guessed – is illegal.

The normal bank holiday entitlement is eight days a year. However, there is occasionally an extra bank holiday, as we’ve seen over the last couple of years.

Most golf clubs give their employees, especially those in food and beverage, 28 days, with no automatic right to have bank holidays off. This is legally ok; if they have 28 paid days off per year, then that is fine. This formulation means that if they want a bank holiday off, they must request the day off like any other holiday request.

So far, so good, right?

Well, not quite. In recent months I’ve come across a worrying number of clubs that don’t seem to have been paying attention when it comes to holiday entitlement – I’m currently fighting a fire for one client who hasn’t paid the correct holiday for the last 14 years, since the entitlement changed in 2009 from 20 days, including bank holidays, to 28.

Just so it’s crystal clear, there is no legal entitlement to have bank holidays off nor to be paid for them, as long as you give at least the minimum number of 28 holiday days.

In case you’re wondering, there is an onus on the employees to take their holidays and keep up to date with their entitlements.

But if you think that absolves you of your responsibility, I’m afraid it absolutely doesn’t, and ignorance is really no defence.

As an example, at one club, a departing staff member pointed out that she was owed holiday.

She was right. It turns out that ALL of the workers are owed a few days’ holiday, with several entitled to as many as 15 ON TOP of their existing 28 days.

The problem here is that you are not legally allowed to pay out or carry forward statutory holidays from one year to the next – it’s ‘use it or lose it.’

Yes, you could assume a ‘tough, you should have known and taken it!’ approach, but in my experience, there’s no way this won’t backfire on your club and wipe away any employee engagement and motivation.

Finally, all staff, no matter what contract they are on, are entitled to paid holiday. Full-time, part-time, zero hours, casuals. Ensure you have updated all of your documents and that payroll knows what to pay to whom. Otherwise, you could face a large holiday bill yourself!

Don’t let them work on holiday

Sometimes we come across staff reluctant to take holiday.

Seems odd, but when you delve deeper, it makes sense – they’re scared of the employer finding out what or how little they actually do.

From a financial perspective, it’s crucial that finance staff are made to have two consecutive weeks off every year, and that someone else looks after their work while they’re off.

They shouldn’t be allowed to work remotely, and if they do have remote access, it should be revoked during their holiday.

By doing this, you ensure another qualified person is looking at what has been going on in the finances, and have the chance to spot embezzlement, failure to pay VAT, pension payments not being paid, and all of the other finance stuff that can come out in the wash. And don’t think this isn’t possible – we have had all of these come out once another professional took a look.

If you’ve got a staff member refusing to let anyone else get involved in their area because they’re ‘the only one that can do it’, this is a serious red flag, and needs addressing as soon as possible.

What if they don’t go on holiday?

As an employer, you need to make sure your employees take their legal breaks under the Working Time Regulations (WTR).

If you don’t, and there is an accident due to them being ‘overworked’, it’s your head on the block; in the worst case, for corporate manslaughter.

Far more common is office staff claiming mental health issues due to their manager not stopping them from working at 2am, answering emails.

Although staff are supposed to be equally responsible for following health and safety guidelines, once again, it is ultimately you, the employer, who will be prosecuted for not making them have their breaks.

It is not a defence to say “They are grown-ups, they can make their own decisions”.

Do you have any rights?! Here’s one…

You can tell your staff when to take their holiday so that they have their legal breaks and the work still gets done.

To do this, you need to give the staff twice as much notice of the holiday as the length of it – if you want them to take five days holiday, you need to give them 10 calendar days written notice.

They cannot legally object to you putting them on annual leave.

Keep an eye on how much holiday staff have taken during the year and intervene if they seem to be ‘hoarding’ it: you don’t want everyone suddenly requesting all of December off!

Holiday calculation changes

One thing that’s changed in the last couple of years is that zero-hours staff are now entitled to 28 days holiday a year, paid at their average daily pay rate.

You do not pro-rata the 28 days holiday; the amount paid per day is based on their wage / hours. This is due to a case law decision in summer 2022, and while the government has now opened a consultation on changing the ruling, there will be no change until April 2024 at the earliest.

If you have zero hours staff, take a look at whether they could easily be switched to part-time contracts, as they’ll then have a pro rata entitlement to holiday.

For further advice on this matter or any other staff or member issue affecting your golf club, please contact Carolyne Wahlen, Golf HR, on or 01491 598 700


By Alistair August 29, 2023 06:12

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