the history of paid leave

Paid leave is time off work for which the employee is paid, and which can be used for whatever the employee wishes, including holidays or family duties. There is a statutory entitlement to paid leave in most countries, and many employers offer more than the minimum required by law. Employees are required to give a certain amount of advance notice and other requirements may have to be met, such as ensuring a certain amount of staff cover. Part-time workers are entitled to the proportion of annual leave corresponding to the hours they work per week.

History of the struggle for paid leaveThe law on paid leave in the UK (2013)Limitations and directions for the futureHistory of the struggle for paid leave

With the  spread of factory work after the industrial revolution, people in Britain ceased to enjoy the  seasonal breaks from work that farming offered. Most workers had the Sunday off, but apart from that the only other time off was during the religious holidays of Christmas and Good Friday.  In 1871, the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year – four new public holidays  were introduced in England and Wales, and 3 new ones in Scotland.

In the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century, additional paid leave was only granted to senior managers and supervisors in UK factories. At the end of the 19th century most people had no paid holidays except bank holidays. The Trade Union Congress first began to campaign for a paid holiday for workers in 1911.

In the 1930s, paid vacation time became a very important issue for workers. Trade unionsraised this issue through campaigns and lobbied the government of the day for a two week paid holiday. In 1936, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Holidays with Pay Convention (no.52), which called for an annual holiday with pay of at least six working days after one year of continuous service.