Public holidays

This page sets out standard public holiday entitlements for each of the four nations, explains the implications for part-time workers, and provides examples of how days are allocated depending on work commitments.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Last reviewed: 21 December 2020
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​The number of public holidays to which staff are entitled should be set out in the contract of employment. It should be noted that these vary from country to country within the UK and the precise dates can vary between, and even within, employing authorities.


England and Wales

All NHS staff are now entitled to eight public holidays per annum.

The actual days designated as public holidays will be agreed through the local partnership forum. GP employers should be aware the Agenda for Change does not apply to their own staff unless it has been incorporated into their contracts.



In Scotland, all medical staff are entitled to 10 public holidays per annum.

The actual days designated as public holidays will be agreed through the local negotiating committee (LNC) and vary between employing authorities. By local agreement, two of the public holiday days may be converted to a period of annual leave.



Northern Ireland

Medical staff in Northern Ireland are entitled to 10 public holidays and two statutory holiday days per annum.

For consultants the two statutory holidays have been converted into a period of annual leave by local agreement.

Associate Specialists, Speciality Doctors and Junior Doctors are entitled to the two statutory holidays per annum (13 July and 29 December).


Part-time workers

As a high proportion of public holidays will generally fall on a Monday, it is important that this is borne in mind when looking at part-time workers' entitlement to public holidays. In line with the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations, the entitlement to public holidays for part-time workers should also be pro-rated.

It may, however, be the case that a part-time worker who normally works on a Monday is prevented from doing so on a higher number of Mondays within a year than the number of public holidays they would be entitled to on a pro-rata basis (as a result of regular sessions being cancelled on public holidays).

Where this applies, there should be a local agreement, either collectively or within the individual employees contract, on how this will be dealt with, which may be through granting unpaid leave on the relevant days, time shifting, or some other agreed mechanism.


How this might work in practice

It is important that agreements on public holidays are clear from the outset, particularly where GPs are issuing contracts to new part-time staff.

Worker 1

  • Is full-time.
  • Works 40 hours per week.
  • Works Monday to Friday.
  • Public holiday entitlement is eight days.

Note: All public holidays are either taken on assigned dates or paid in lieu.

Worker 2

  • Is part-time.
  • Works 20 hours per week.
  • Works Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
  • Public holiday entitlement is four days.

Note: public holidays due on normal working days are taken on assigned dates. If more than four fall on normal working days, then working days in weeks with extra public holidays can be re-arranged, annual leave taken for these days or unpaid leave taken on the assigned public holiday.

Worker 3

  • Is part-time.
  • Works 10 hours per week.
  • Works Tuesday, Wednesday.
  • Public holiday entitlement is two days.

Note: If no public holidays fall on working days, then entitlement may be added to annual leave. If more than the entitlement falls on working days, then either the working days are re-arranged in that week or annual leave or unpaid time off is taken on the assigned public holiday.



Where any employee is required to work on a designated public holiday, they will be entitled to either an enhanced rate of pay or time in lieu. This may take the form of straight additional pay, time off at another time or a mixture of both.

The multipliers applied and mixture of time and payment allowed, will vary by employer and local arrangements must always be checked before giving advice.

Need help? For questions about any aspect of your working life, our advisers are here to help you. Opening times: 8am - 8pm Monday to Friday (excluding UK bank holidays) and 9am - 12pm on Saturdays.