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
Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2024
Calendar article illustration

​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.

In Scotland, agreement was reached, as set out in the circular PCS 2021(DD) 01 to apply the substitution of two public holidays with three additional annual leave days on a permanent, pan NHSScotland basis for all doctors falling within the terms of conditions covered by the circular. This includes consultants, Specialty Doctors and Associate Specialists; Junior Doctors (including GP Specialty Registrars) and other staff covered by the NHS Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors and Dentists in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service (Scotland) Terms and Conditions of Service. This should be applied to less than full time staff on a pro rata basis.

The change will increase the annual leave entitlement to 6.6 weeks for those grades previously entitled to 6 weeks’ leave, and to 5.6 weeks for those previously entitled to 5 weeks’ leave. At the same time, public holiday entitlement will reduce from 10 to 8 public holidays per year.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

DL (2022)08 confirms the arrangements around the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in NHS Scotland. All staff were entitled to an extra public holiday for the Platinum Jubilee (that being Friday 3 June), whether rostered to work on that day or not. For those not rostered to work on that day, an extra day should be added to their entitlement for 2022-23. This extra public holiday applies to both full and part time staff on a pro rata basis.


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, Specialist Doctors and Junior Doctors are entitled to the two statutory holidays per annum (13 July and 27 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.