What holidays are my employees entitled to?

Gemma O'Connor - Services and Operations Manager

April 05 2022

First published: April 5th, 2022

All employees earn holiday pay based on time worked, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, casual or temporary.

As an employer, you have a statutory obligation to provide paid holidays to employees under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. This law covers employees, apprentices, and those employed through an employment agency.

Calculating employee holiday leave can prove to be a challenging task. This article explains everything you need to know about Irish employment laws and other important details regarding holiday entitlement in Ireland.

What is holiday leave?

According to the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, the (OWTA), most employees are entitled to four weeks of annual leave for each leave year, with pro-rata entitlements for shorter periods of employment.

The length of time spent on annual leave is determined by the employer based on work requirements. It’s also subject to the consideration of the employee's need to reconcile work and family responsibilities, as well as rest and recreation opportunities available to the employee.

During their annual leave, employees are entitled to their regular weekly salary. Employees with varying pay should receive the average of their pay over the 13 weeks before taking leave.

Who's entitled to take holidays?

Under the OWTA, all employees are entitled to take annual leave. This applies to all employees under a:  

  • Contract of employment
  • Contract of apprenticeship
  • Public sector employees (save for the Gardaí and the Defence Forces)
  • Those from an employment agency

Do all employees have the same amount of holiday entitlement in Ireland?

No. By looking at the amount of work an employee completes during a leave year, you can determine how much paid holiday leave they’re due.

You can work out the statutory minimum paid annual leave using these calculations:

  • An employee who works at least 1,365 hours in a year receives the full entitlement of four working weeks of annual leave. (Unless it is a leave year in which the employer has changed employment).
  • An employee who works at least 117 hours in a month receives one-third of a working week for each month in the leave year.
  • For part-time employees it is typically 8% of the hours an employee works in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).

An employee is also entitled to ten public holidays in a year:  

  • New Year's Day (1 January)
  • First Monday in February
  • Patrick's Day (17 March)
  • Easter Monday
  • First Monday in May, June, August
  • Last Monday in October
  • Christmas Day (25 December)
  • Stephen's Day (26 December)

Good Friday and Christmas eve are not public holidays. An employee’s contract of employment in Ireland may also entitle them to longer periods of leave.

Contractual entitlement to holiday leave

You’re required to include the statutory minimum holiday entitlements as set out in the OWTA. However, you can provide for a greater amount as part of the terms and conditions in your employment contract.

If the contractual entitlement to annual leave is greater than the statutory minimum, you must ensure you provide the full contractual amount. Otherwise, you will be in breach of your contractual obligations. As an employer, if you breach your contractual obligations, you’re at risk of claims for breach of contract.

If the employment contract is terminated and the employee has unused holiday entitlements, you’re required to compensate them. Unless the employment relationship is terminated, it’s illegal to pay an employee in lieu of the minimum statutory leave entitlement.

Managing holiday requests

If an employee wishes to make a holiday request, they must first give you notice. This notice can be specified in the contract of employment or a policy. If the employee doesn’t comply with it, you may refuse to grant the leave.

You must ensure that part-time staff members' annual leave entitlements are prorated to the amount full-time employees receive if a discretionary contractual annual leave entitlement exceeds the statutory minimum for that category.

It’s possible for you to cancel annual leave once you have a valid reason and the employee receives necessary notice. If you cancel annual leave, your employee will probably be upset, so you should only do this as a last resort.

It’s important to keep an eye on the amount of leave all employees have left at regular intervals during the year. Remind staff once or twice in the second half of the leave year of how much they have left and that they should book it ─ or they will lose it.

Article: Employer guide to employment contract terms and conditions

Annual leave and other leave

Employees on certified sick leave, maternity leave, adoptive leave, parental leave, force majeure leave or the first 13 weeks of caregiver's leave are treated as if they’re still employed during this time. This time can be used to accumulate annual leave entitlement.

Public and Church holidays in Ireland

When it comes to annual leave and public holidays, Bank Holidays are included in holiday leave entitlements. So, you’re obligated to remunerate employees on Bank Holidays.

The law allows you to transfer public holidays which fall on Sundays to the following working weekday. In addition, you can substitute any public holiday with the Church holiday falling immediately before ─ or after ─ the public holiday with notice.

Need advice on how to calculate holiday entitlement?

For advice on how to calculate holiday pay entitlement in Ireland or bank holiday entitlements, speak with one of our HR consultants any time day or night on 0818 923 923.

Suggested Resources