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Holiday Pay

All workers and employees are entitled to paid leave or holiday pay. Find out how much you're entitled to, and what you should do if you suspect your employer is breaking the law.

Last updated: 26 May 2022

In the UK, full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ (28 days) paid leave per year. A part-time employee is entitled to 28 days’ paid leave reduced pro rata, according to the number of days they work each week.

If you are a worker, paid leave is not normally offered and you must be given holiday pay instead.

Self-employed music teachers are not entitled to paid leave or holiday pay.

What does this mean for music teachers?

If you are a full-time employed teacher – for example a classroom teacher – you will get paid leave in the school holidays, so you won’t have additional holiday pay. Part-time classroom teachers are usually treated similarly.

If you are a teacher employed by a music service or hub, you are likely to be on a variable-hours contract – sometimes described as ‘atypical work’ – without paid leave. Instead you will get holiday pay calculated as a percentage of your wage and (usually) added to your monthly pay.

If you find that your holiday pay is not itemised, and your employers are instead claiming that it is included in your wage (often referred to as ‘rolling up’), this is unlawful and we advise that if you are a member of the MU you should contact your regional office to for guidance.

Self-employed music teachers are not entitled to paid leave or holiday pay.

Calculating holiday pay for atypical work

Based on the current statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks a year, an employer would calculate your holiday pay as an additional 12.07% on top of your hourly wage.

This figure is produced by taking 5.6 weeks’ holiday (statutory holiday entitlement) and dividing it by 46.4 weeks (the number of working weeks remaining).

However, this formula can result in underpayment. It is still lawful to calculate holiday pay at 12.07%, but employers using this percentage should check at the end of the year that employees have not been underpaid (see formula below).

Calculation formula

The government website gives advice on calculating holiday pay. The following table, taken from its page on holiday pay, explains how to calculate a week’s pay, which is the basis of all holiday pay calculations.

Working pattern
How a week’s pay is calculated
Fixed hours and fixed pay (full or part-time)
How much a worker gets for a week’s work
Shift work with fixed hours (full or part-time)
The average number of weekly fixed hours a worker has worked in the previous 12 weeks, at their average hourly rate
No fixed hours (casual work, including zero-hours contracts)
A worker’s average pay from the previous 12 weeks (only counting weeks in which they were paid)

Calculating an average hourly rate

Because some music teachers work at different rates within their roles, it can be necessary to calculate an average hourly rate. To do this:

  • Count the hours worked and how much was paid for these over the last 12 weeks, excluding weeks where no work was done, e.g. during school holidays.
  • A ‘week’ usually runs from Sunday to Saturday – another seven-day period (e.g. Thursday to Wednesday) should only be used if this is how a worker’s pay is calculated.
  • Statutory pay (e.g. sick pay or maternity pay) should be included in the average.
  • If a worker has been employed for less than 12 weeks, use the maximum number of full weeks they have worked to calculate the average.
  • To calculate a week’s pay for someone who is paid monthly, divide the month’s pay by the number of hours worked in the month, then multiply this by the number of hours worked in a week.

Holiday pay claims

Holiday pay can be a complex area and members are encouraged to get in touch if they have any concerns.

The majority of holiday pay claims processed by the MU are where atypical workers are not being paid holiday pay at all, rather than where the amount has been miscalculated.

Employers who have not been paying holiday pay sometimes try to introduce an itemisation of the previously agreed rate into wage plus holiday pay. This is reasonable if the rate was understood to include holiday pay, but it can be an unlawful deduction from wages if not.

If your employer changes how they process holiday pay, there is a three-month legal window to challenge it.

This means that if an employer introduces itemisation, for example, three months later it will be assumed that the employee has given consent to this. It is therefore best to contact the MU straight away if your employer makes any changes you are unsure about.

If you are not being paid holiday pay and you should be, there is normally a two-year cap on the amount of back holiday pay that can be claimed, although legal developments suggest that this cap may no longer apply in the future.

The MU supports many members through holiday pay claims. Contact your regional office, who will explain the process to you.