Doctors' annual leave entitlements

Annual leave is defined in doctors' contracts, and is slightly different for consultants, junior doctors, SAS doctors, GPs, medical academics, part-time staff and LTFT trainees, and locum doctors. Local policies usually cover requesting and carrying over leave.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2024
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​Your annual leave entitlement is defined in your terms and conditions of employment and, for hospital doctors, in the national terms and conditions of service for your grade.


Junior doctors

Hospital doctors

Most full-time hospital doctors are also entitled to eight days of public holiday and two days statutory holiday, or days in lieu thereof. The two statutory days are days of paid holiday determined by the employer. They may, by local agreement, be converted to a period of annual leave. In Wales, leave arrangements are harmonised for most grades and statutory days are included in annual leave allowances as noted below.


Grade Annual leave entitlement Notes
Consultant (pre-2003 contract) 6 weeks
Consultant (2003 contract) 6 weeks (+ 4 days in Wales) + 2 extra days after 7 years in the grade in England and Northern Ireland
Associate specialist (2008 contract) 6 weeks (+ 4 days in Wales) Local agreements can be made for 2 extra days after 7 years in the grade
Specialist (2021 contract) 6 weeks In England and Northern Ireland, + 2 days which were previously counted separately as statutory days + 1 extra day after 7 years in the grade (unless local agreement for more is in place)
Staff grade 5 weeks for first 2 years; 6 weeks in subsequent years (both + 4 days in Wales) A newly appointed staff grade may be entitled to 6 weeks leave immediately if previous post carried 6 weeks entitlement
Specialty doctor (2008 contract) 5 weeks for first 2 years, except where the immediate previous post had 6 weeks entitlement, in which case 6 weeks applies. 6 weeks in subsequent years (all +4 days in Wales). In England and Northern Ireland, local agreement can be made for 2 extra days after 7 years in the grade. 6 weeks after 2 years in Wales.
Specialty doctor (2021 contract) 5 weeks for first 2 years, except where the immediate previous post had 6 weeks entitlement, in which case 6 weeks applies. 6 weeks in subsequent years (all +4 days in Wales). In England and Northern Ireland, + 2 days which were previously counted separately as statutory days + 1 extra day after 7 years in the grade (unless local agreement for more is in place)
Junior doctors (2002 contract): StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the 3rd or higher points of the payscale 6 weeks (+3 days in Wales) Systems should be in place to monitor leave on an annual basis, rather than by each rotation only. Check with local employers how this is managed
Foundation year 1, Foundation year 2  and StRs, StR(FT)s and SpRs on the minimum, 1st or 2nd points of the payscale 5 weeks (+3 days in Wales)
Junior doctors (2016 contract): on first appointment to the NHS 27 days
Junior doctors (2016 contract): after five years’ NHS service 32 days
Junior doctors (2016 contract): senior and clinical medical officers, hospital practitioners 6 weeks


Read more about annual leave for consultants


Less than full-time trainees


Annual leave for less than full-time trainees should be calculated on a pro-rated basis. For example, a less than full-time trainee working 60% of a full-time rota should receive 60% of the entitlement to annual leave, and 60% of the entitlement to public holidays.


Medical academics

For medical academics, other than those employed by the NHS, leave entitlements are determined by the university employer. This entitlement should, however, be no less than that for equivalent NHS employees.

Read more in the medical academics handbook (PDF).


SAS doctors

Consultants in England and Northern Ireland are eligible for two additional days leave after seven years of service, but there is no such entitlement for specialty doctors, staff grades and associate specialists on the pre-2021 contracts.

It is BMA policy that the entitlement should also apply to SAS doctors. The SAS doctors committee has written to all LNCs (local negotiating committees) asking them to negotiate this locally, and we’re aware that many have agreed to recognise the seniority of those in the SAS grades in this way.

Please contact your HR department or LNC to ascertain whether this has been agreed in your trust.

As part of the 2021 Specialty Doctor and Specialist contracts, there is a contractual minimum of one additional day after seven years of service in the grade or equivalent grades in England and Northern Ireland. However, this is not intended to supersede local arrangements if your employer has already agreed a policy that all senior doctors should receive more additional leave.

In Wales, all SAS doctors receive either 5 weeks plus 4 days of leave, or 6 weeks plus 4 days after two years in service.


GP partners

Annual leave is defined in your partnership agreement and is normally a minimum of six weeks. Salaried GPs have annual leave defined in your contract with the practice or employing authority and this, again, is normally six weeks.


Other GP-employed staff

All other GP-employed staff are entitled to 5.6 weeks (30 days if a five-day week is worked) of paid leave.

This entitlement is in addition to public holidays, and is reduced on a pro-rata basis for those working part-time.

This is a requirement of the Working Time Regulations and pay in lieu of time off is not an option, except on termination of employment.


Part-time staff



Part-time workers should receive the same entitlement as their full-time colleagues, on a pro-rata basis.

It is important to check how annual leave entitlement is expressed in contracts of employment – ie in terms of weeks, days or hours – and that pro-rating is correctly applied.

A failure to correctly pro-rate holidays for part-time staff places the employer in breach of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002.


Locum doctors and 'rolled up holiday pay'

  • Rolled up holiday pay means you’re paid in lieu of annual leave, as part of the payment for your services.
  • Your payslip should clearly distinguish between pay for your service and pay for annual leave.
  • Locum doctors are entitled to the same benefits as other employees after 12 weeks with the same employer.

All employees are entitled to statutory paid annual leave of 5.6 weeks per annum, or 28 days, which can include public holidays. The same is true for locum doctors, who should receive the entitlement on a pro rata basis.

Also, after 12 weeks of working for the same employer, you are entitled to the same benefits as those employed directly.

Some locums don’t receive an annual leave entitlement from the employer; this is partly due to the practical difficulties associated with working on a short-term or intermittent basis.

To compensate locums for the entitlement, whether statutory or contractual, some employers use ‘rolled up holiday pay’. This means your employer has ‘rolled up’ the pay you would have been entitled to, in lieu of annual leave, into the agreed rate for your services.

You should be at no financial disadvantage when you decide to not undertake work, as you have already received payment for the equivalent annual leave you would have used.

In 2006, the European Court of Justice ruled the practice of ‘rolled up holiday pay’ unlawful, as it could mean workers feel unable to take their statutory leave and could therefore contravene Working Time Regulations.

However, being paid in this way can be attractive to employees, and there can be an exception to the ruling if employers use rolled up holiday pay transparently. This means your payslip should clearly distinguish between payment for your service and for annual leave, as two distinct amounts.

The practice can be beneficial. If you work for an employer only briefly, it might be difficult to arrange leave, so you may find it easier to automatically receive pay in lieu of leave, and to receive it immediately instead of waiting for it to accrue.

If you undertake locum work, ensure your employer is aware of your statutory entitlement to annual leave, or compensation for it, as well as your entitlement to equal treatment after 12 weeks of service.

If they are planning to roll up holiday pay, they should make you aware of this from the start. When you receive your first payslip, check that the holiday pay is a separate amount. If you aren’t sure, contact the BMA for advice.


Requests and authorisation

Granting annual leave will always be at the discretion of the employer, and most employers have a formal system to request leave. No employer should unreasonably refuse a request providing it came through the agreed channels, and gives reasonable notice to allow for alternative cover arrangements.

  • For most hospital employed staff, ‘reasonable’ notice is often based on lead time for out-patient clinic or theatre appointments; usually around six weeks.
  • However, the amount of notice that is practical to give may be less as, for example, juniors may not have access to rotas as far in advance as other staff.
  • Consultants in England are required to give at least two months’ notice of leave requests.

Carrying over annual leave

Most employers limit the annual leave that may be carried over at the end of the leave year to five days or less. However, different arrangements are currently in place in different UK nations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Check your contract or employer’s local policy on this. Working Time Regulations require at least 5.6 weeks paid annual leave to be taken in each leave year; all employees are expected to take this as a minimum.

A European Court of Justice ruling established that, where staff are absent from work on long-term sick leave and are thus unable to take the statutory minimum leave (ie 5.6 weeks per year), they must then be entitled to carry over the difference between annual leave taken and the statutory minimum leave into the next year.

Should they subsequently leave their employment, the annual leave outstanding and paid in lieu on termination will include the amount carried over.

In cases where exceptional circumstances or service demands have prevented a doctor from taking the full leave allowance, up to five days of leave per annum (pro rata for contracts or placements of less than 12 months’ duration or for doctors who work less than full time) may be carried forward to the next post or placement with the same employer. This must be with the agreement of the relevant department, in line with the employer’s local policy. With the agreement of the employer, and in line with local policy, payment in lieu can be made for up to five days’ annual leave (pro rata as appropriate) which could not be taken before a move to a new employer.