An employee can take leave without pay if their employer agrees. The agreement should be recorded in writing.

Leave without pay is when an employer allows an employee time off work when they would otherwise be working, but doesn’t pay them for this time. Leave without pay (LWOP) doesn’t end an employee’s employment, and usually the employee returns to their same position and terms and conditions after taking leave without pay (unless the employee and employer agree otherwise). Leave without pay can affect the employee’s annual holidays payment and entitlement in some situations.

Situations when an employee might take leave without pay

Employees aren’t entitled to take leave without pay; they can only take it if their employer agrees. This agreement could be contained in their employment agreement, or could be negotiated by the employee and employer at the time leave is taken.

An employer might consider agreeing to a period of leave without pay, for example:

·         if an employee doesn’t have enough annual holidays to cover the time they want to take off work, or

·         if an employee doesn’t have enough sick leave to cover a period of illness or injury

·         for study leave

·         for a sabbatical

·         if the employee can’t take parental leave or negotiated carer leave.

If the employee takes time off work without the employer’s agreement, this is unauthorised leave and could result in a disciplinary process being taken.

Parental leave provides information for employers, employees and self-employed people about parental leave and associated entitlements.

Annual closedowns has information on what happens if an organisation has an annual closedown period, and an employee doesn’t have enough annual holidays to cover the closedown.

Taking more than one week of leave without pay

If an employee takes a continuous period of leave without pay for more than one week (not including unpaid sick or unpaid bereavement leave):

·         their anniversary date for entitlement to annual holidays moves out by the amount of unpaid leave taken (not including the first week). This means the employee becomes entitled to their annual holidays later each year from then on, or

·         the employer can agree with the employee that their anniversary date for annual holidays entitlement won’t change. If they agree to this, the employer must also reduce the divisor for calculating average weekly earnings for annual holidays by the number of weeks or part weeks greater than one week that the employee was on leave without pay.

If the employee takes eg two periods of leave without pay, each being one week in duration, this does not have any impact on the anniversary date, the period of leave without pay greater than one week must be in one continuous period.

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Penny Varley

Payroll Administrator