Can an employee take unpaid leave?

I have an employee who wants to take unpaid leave to go on holiday but they still have enough of their holiday entitlement left to take it as paid. Is it a legal responsibility to use their entitlement first before being granted unpaid time off?

There is nothing in law that states that an employee must take all of their paid leave entitlement before they take any unpaid leave in relation to going away on holiday.

Unpaid leave, for reasons of going on holiday, is not covered in legislation.

Sometimes employees have provisions within their contracts of employment dealing with the taking of leave and any unpaid leave that may be granted, so you should first look at their documentation to check this.

In the absence of any contractual provision, how you deal with unpaid leave and whether you allow it is at your discretion, though you should look towards any past instances of a request for unpaid leave in your organisation for guidance in this current situation.

Leave for reasons other than holiday

You should query why the employee wants to take time off in this way. If it is because they want to spend more time with their children, then this leave may fall under the definition of parental leave and can be classed as such, rather than simply unpaid leave.

There would be no difference in terms of pay though, because statutory parental leave is unpaid.

It is important to remember that you do have the right to refuse a holiday request, whether for paid holiday or unpaid holiday.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics

Employment Law
Unpaid leave

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