Holiday entitlement

Page last updated 21 April 2023

The number of days' paid holiday to which an employee is entitled in each leave year is specified in the contract of employment. For support and academic-related staff, further information is set out in section 3.8 of the staff handbook.  

All entitlements are pro-rata for part-time staff. 

For staff with less than a year's service, or whose circumstances change during the year (for example, due to a change of hours, or leaving employment) the amount of annual holiday allowed will normally be pro rated based on the relevant period. 

Holiday accrual begins from the first day of employment.

Holidays are to be taken at times approved in advance by the Head of Department (who will not unreasonably withhold consent). The normal leave year runs from 1 October to 30 September.

Up to 5 days of any balance of the annual entitlement (pro-rata for part-time staff) may only be carried forward from one year to the next in exceptional circumstances and with the agreement of the Head of Department [during the Coronavirus pandemic additional rules applied - see the relevant section below]. Some departments may operate slightly different annual leave year periods (for example, April to March) due to the nature of the work carried out and/or other external factors. Where the Head of Department agrees to the carry over, the employee should be advised that they must use the carried over leave within the first three months of the new holiday year.  They should also be reminded to book all their new entitlement within the holiday year.

For further details on the calculation used to determine the value of a day's holiday pay, please contact

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Under normal circumstances employees who do not take their statutory leave entitlement can only carry forward up to 5 days, in exceptional circumstances. The Working Time Directive also states statutory holiday entitlement (28 days) can only be carried forward between years if family leave or sickness have prevented employees from taking it.  During the coronavirus pandemic, the government changed the rules on statutory holiday carry-over, allowing up to 20 days annual leave carry over in exceptional circumstances. This was intended to ensure that  staff who were unable to take holiday during this period due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic werenot disadvantaged, and to help employers who were struggling to maintain full staffing during a period when many staff were ill, or unable to work due to self-isolating. 

Under these temporary arrangements Heads of Department could approve carrying over up to 20 days leave to be taken within the next 2 years in the following circumstances only:

  • where staff were unable to take their leave due to being required to carry out essential COVID-19 related work, for example those clinicians and research teams working directly on COVID-19, those staff who have joint responsibilities with the NHS and were required to increase their clinical activity, or those maintaining essential facilities, for example security services, payroll, some laboratory facilities, where there were additional demands because of COVID-19. It is for each department to determine this category of staff; it is the expectation that very few will fall into this category.
  • Where staff have been asked to cover work for colleagues who are absent due to illness or self-isolation (this situation should be avoided wherever possible).

The normal arrangements for holiday carry over where sickness or family leave prevent holiday being taken are not affected by this change.

The University scheme for long service leave is set out below. Staff who have had a break or breaks in service for domestic reasons (for example, maternity leave or family commitments such as the care of relatives), provided that during the break they have taken no other paid employment, should have any period of continuous service in employment with the Chancellors, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford at the time of commencing each break in service for domestic reasons counted for the purposes of calculating long service leave entitlement. For the purpose of reckoning continuous service under this scheme (in this context only), employment with another university (without a break of service) is to be counted.

Long service leave thresholds and entitlements
Years of continuous service Additional days leave*
More than (yrs) Less than (yrs) -
5 7 1
7 10 2
10 15 3
15 20 4
20 - 5

* Long service leave should be pro rata for part-time staff

During periods of appropriately certified sickness absence, employees accrue contractual annual leave at the rate of full entitlement when on full pay and half rate when on half pay. Contractual annual leave is not accrued during periods of zero pay, neither is additional leave credited for bank holidays which fall during periods of unpaid sickness absence. However, employees do accrue the minimum holiday entitlement specified in the Working Time Regulations, ie a total of 28 days' paid holiday (including bank holidays) in any leave year during sickness absence. Where an employee has been absent due to sickness the right to paid statutory holidays is not lost at the end of the leave year. Leave should be taken where possible, and may be taken during periods of sick leave, but may be paid in lieu on termination of employment. In cases of doubt please contact University HR for advice.

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During periods of family leave (maternity, adoption, shared parental and paternity) employees accrue contractual annual leave at the normal rate of entitlement. Where an employee has been absent on family leave the right to paid holidays is not lost at the end of the leave year. In cases of doubt please contact your HR Business Partner for advice.

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By custom, holiday arrangements include (amongst other bank holidays and fixed closure days) a day off on Christmas Day and another day off on Good Friday, both of which are Christian religious festivals. In the interests of equality those practising other religions should be given preferential treatment when booking leave on the religious festival dates of most significance to them, providing these days are booked with as much notice as possible in order to assist operational arrangements. The number of annual leave days overall will remain as set out in your contract of employment.

In some departments employees may not be able to come into work on public holidays or fixed-closure days for security reasons; therefore, any requests for flexibility regarding working on these days would need to be considered by each department individually. Administrators are advised to contact their HR Business Partner for advice if required. The main religious dates for each year are available from the Equality and Diversity Unit.

If a member of staff requests extended leave at a particular time for religious reasons, for example for the purpose of going on pilgrimage, the department should attempt to accommodate the request. If the extended leave exceeds the employee's annual holiday entitlement, the excess days would normally be taken as unpaid leave. If an individual requests the opportunity to carry over leave from one year to another for religious purposes line managers should agree such requests if operationally possible.

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If an employee is leaving the employment of the University any untaken holiday or lieu time should normally be taken prior to the last day of employment, as set out in the contract of employment. It will be at the head of department's discretion to require that any period of outstanding leave is taken during the notice period.

Exceptionally, if an employee has not taken their full holiday entitlement at the time of leaving, accrued holiday pay may be paid, calculated in proportion to the period already worked during the leave year less the value of any days of holiday already taken - bank holidays normally being ignored both in terms of entitlement and days of holiday taken, although care should be taken to ensure that part-time staff are not disadvantaged by this method.

If an employee has taken more than their full holiday entitlement at the time of leaving, calculated in proportion to the period already worked during the leave year, then (provided the employee's contract of employment explicitly allows this, which will not be the case for contracts issued before 1 August 2005) the University may deduct an appropriate sum from the employee's final payment, or alternatively, by mutual agreement, may arrange for the employee to work some or all of these additional days without further pay at a later date.

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When staff transfer between different departments of the University (for example, because they have accepted a new job) but there is no break in continuity of service and the underlying employer remains the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University, outstanding holiday entitlement must be used before the end of the notice period. Alternatively, the balance can be transferred to the new employing department, by agreement.  Departments may not pay staff in lieu of untaken holiday in any circumstances except where they are moving to a new, non-University, employer

In circumstances where the individual has taken more holiday than they have accrued at the point of transfer, there will need to be discussion between the individual and the two departments about how to manage this.  The options are:

  • the new department could ‘reimburse’ the costs of the leave which has been taken over and above the amount accrued to date, and the balance for the remainder of the holiday year would be adjusted down accordingly; or
  • the individual could ask for the holiday over and above the amount accrued to date to be reclassified as unpaid leave, and for the costs of this to be deducted from their final pay from the department they are leaving; or
  • exceptionally, where the leave was granted for personal reasons, the department could decide to write off the deficit.  In this case the new department should simply do a new part-year holiday calculation ignoring the excess taken.

The University gives its employees generous annual leave to support health and wellbeing and to ensure that employees have sufficient leave entitlement both to take restorative breaks away from the workplace as well as to deal with other personal issues during the working week.  Time away from the workplace is essential for wellbeing and work-life balance. (This is recognised in the Working Time Regulations which state that employers may not pay staff in lieu of statutory holiday entitlement.)   

If you are participating in the pilot to record annual leave and sickness information in HR Self-Service, please visit the dedicated Staff Gateway page for guidance or contact your HR administrator.

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