All work and no play is not the recipe for a fulfilling life. Luckily, in the UK, plenty of legislation exists specifically to make sure we’re not overworked, setting out several reasons we can get time off without having to pull a sickie.

Authorised absence is important to our health, giving us a chance to recharge and avoid burnout. It doesn’t just come in one form, though. Just like how authorised absence is one of two main types of time off along with unauthorised absence, there are several more specific types of leave that fit into the category of authorised.

From annual leave through to training days, these are the main types of authorised absence available in the UK.

Annual leave

You should all know about this one. Annual leave, or holiday entitlement, is the most common type of authorised absence. There are two elements that make it up – the statutory entitlement of 5.6 weeks outlined by the government and additional leave that can be given at employers’ discretion.

Annual leave is paid at the full rate you’re used to, so there should be no reason not to take it. However, despite it being a legal entitlement, the average UK worker only uses 62% of their allowance each year.

While people are well within their rights to not take annual leave, employers have a responsibility to look after their health and wellbeing. Encouraging people to use as much of their holiday allowance as possible can prevent issues with burnout or ill health further down the line.

Public holidays

Public holidays, or bank holidays as you might know them, are national holidays enshrined in law. There are eight standard bank holidays that are celebrated each year in England:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Early May bank holiday
  • Spring bank holiday
  • Summer bank holiday
  • Christmas day
  • Boxing day

However, there is precedent for additional bank holidays to be added for momentous occasions. One of these additional days is already planned in for 3rd June 2022 when the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee.

Many people get bank holidays off as standard – although they can be included as part of the statutory allowance – but others, especially in the retail and hospitality sectors, still work them. It’s not uncommon for people working bank holidays to get rewarded with increased pay or time off in lieu.

Maternity and paternity leave

Maternity leave and paternity leave exist to give parents time off when they welcome a baby into the world.

It can be taken individually by just one of the parents – mums are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave while dads get 2 weeks of paternity leave – or merged into what’s known as Shared Parental Leave. Under the Shared Parental Leave entitlement, two parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay between them.

Time off for public duties

Although a slightly more niche case for authorised absences – getting time off for public duties is a legal right. If you’re involved in work as a magistrate or school governor, for instance, your employer must allow you to take a reasonable amount of time off to account for your duties.

What constitutes a reasonable amount of time off varies depending on what your duties are and is agreed with your employer ahead of time based on the information available. Bear in mind, though, that time off for public duties doesn’t necessarily have to be paid for.

This type of leave also includes time off for jury service, which is an essential part of the judicial system. The government website has a full list of the qualifying duties for authorised absences available for your use.

Compassionate leave

Everyone suffers losses at some point in their lives, and compassionate leave is there to make things a little easier during the tough times following a close family member’s death. You have a right to time off if a ‘dependant’ (anyone who depends on you for care) dies.

Just like with time off for public duties, the amount of compassionate leave you’re entitled to isn’t set in stone, and instead relies on an assessment of what’s reasonable. You’re also not legally entitled to be paid for this time off.

Other types of authorised absences

While the five examples of authorised leave outlined above are all legal entitlements, there are plenty of other types that don’t have a legal basis but are still common in employment contracts around the country. They include time off for:

  • Conferences and training days
  • Family or household emergencies
  • Medical or dental appointments
  • Bereavement of non-dependants

Every contract is different, and some will be more liberal than others in the types of authorised absence that are permitted. Certain particularly forward-thinking companies (largely in the digital sector) even offer unlimited holiday allowance, operating on the idea that as long as the work gets done, it shouldn’t matter how much time you spend in the office.

As a responsible employer, make sure you put the time into thinking about what your absence policy accounts for as authorised. The level of authorised absence entitlement you set will directly affect people’s ability to deal with situations life throws at them, so it’s an important factor in keeping them healthy, happy, and motivated.