Understanding Unpaid Leave: Your Guide to Taking Time Off Work in the UK

Summary of this blog: Right knowledge comes when you have a reliable source. This blog gives you an accurate idea about how to avail of unpaid leave in the UK.

Every country has its leave policy; when anyone needs to opt for a leave, they must go through their company’s HR policy. Generally, there are two types of leave: Paid on unpaid leave, say, through parental bereavement pay, and unpaid on unpaid leave in the UK, where you won’t get your total salary; the HR or company management deducts your salary per your counting leave days. This blog will discuss the unpaid leave policy in the UK.  

If you are daunted, thinking, ‘Can I take unpaid leave from workin the UK, here is the correct answer. Read this blog now!

Case Study 1: Per the Trades Union Congress, a survey conducted in 2018 showed that 1 in 8 workers does not get paid leave entitlements, and many are not eligible for unpaid leave. 

**Note: Anyone reading the above survey must note that survey results as of the specified date partially represent part of the UK population. The number of people applying for unpaid leave may vary per the economic climate, industry and individual circumstances.

Case Study 2: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) on 11th December 2020 mentions in their article that “1 in 12 workers did not get legal holiday entitlement” and that “an estimated 1 in 12 workers is not eligible for legal entitlement to paid leave”, which brings the total number to approx. two million people. This report also says that the Labour Force Survey data the  showed some workers not getting holiday entitlements. 

What is Unpaid Leave?

In the UK, employees usually ask their employer to give them time off work when casual or statutory leaves are exhausted. But this unpaid leave can be taken only in exceptional or emergency circumstances. It is up to the employer’s choice whether to give employees this unpaid leave.

How Many Leaves  One can Take?   

If you are working in a reputed company in any sector, you can take unpaid leave under 3 conditions:

  • At the time of attending jury service
  • Taking care of or looking after your children
  • During your furlough

One can get a clear idea about the unpaid leave policy UK when reading their employee handbooks. However, no such static rule exists to determine how many unpaid leaves you deserve or want to take. It needs to be clarified when it comes to legality.

If you are unhappy when not granted an unpaid leave, you can ask our professional CV writing service to rewrite your unpaid-leave application.    

Under What Circumstances Can One Avail of This Unpaid Leave?

Life is unpredictable; who knows what will occur? Therefore, every company in the UK has entitled all employees to casual and unpaid leave. Under informal or sick leave, salary is not deducted, but when you take personal leave for reasons given below, salary gets deducted.

  • Taking care of your old parents, an example of taking time off work for family reasons 
  •  At the time of sabbaticals, emergencies, or pregnancy
  • Study leave or need to attend a training course

How to Apply for Your Unpaid Leave in the UK?

To avail of unpaid leave in the UK, you must give a written statement to your company’s HR in the following format:

  • Mention the dates of your leave.
  • Specify relevant details.
  • Write a few lines as the reason for the requested leave.

Need to know more about what is garden leave?

Here Get Some Examples for Leave Application


Eligibility and Policy for Unpaid Leave in the United Kingdom

In the UK, a full-time employee is entitled to have 28 days off work, which comes to 5.6 weeks per year. This leave mentioned here is statutory paid leave – paid time off – applicable to all employees. 

People working irregular hours – in shifts and school term–times – are entitled to paid time off per hour they work.

  • When applying for unpaid leave, specific criteria are there. The rules for applying for unpaid leave in the UK include the following:
  • When you ask your employer to give unpaid leave to take care of your old parents or dependents, you will get an unpaid leave per the length of your service.
  • For parental leave, an employee can take 18 weeks of unpaid leave if their child is under 18.
  • No tenure or period is mentioned for taking unpaid leave when pregnant and going for an appointment with a midwife or doctor.
  • Applying for unpaid leave in the UK for public duties such as serving as a magistrate or in a jury; the time duration for leave is given per the responsibility assigned.
  • When taking career breaks and vacations, the period of unpaid leave in the UK may vary.



Availing any leave, whether paid or unpaid leave in the UK, should be done correctly and professionally; when you rejoin, you can continue without any future complications. A good rapport should be maintained with your employer so that you can easily avail future benefits. If there are specific changes in the company work culture in your absence, the team will help you adapt quickly.

Know more about our CV writing service.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is unpaid leave legal in the UK?

There is no legal procedure when you apply for unpaid leave in the UK; you can apply for it under certain circumstances.

2. How many days of unpaid leave is an employee entitled to in the UK?

Legally, it is 5.6 weeks off work when it comes to the statutory leave policy for those with a 5-day work week. But for unpaid leave, there are no such rules and regulation policies to determine how many days of unpaid leave you can take; the grant of an unpaid leave depends on specific scenarios.  

3. What are the rules on unpaid leave?

There are no rules for unpaid leave in the UK. For some instances, like sabbaticals, emergencies, jury service and public duties, unpaid leave is granted.

4. Can I be refused unpaid leave in the UK?

Yes. You can be refused unpaid leave for specific reasons. However, your employer will respond to an unpaid leave request reasonably.

5. Is unpaid leave a deduction from salary?

Yes. A part of your salary will be deducted when you are granted unpaid leave, but in some cases, salary won’t be deducted, like, if your child dies in your gestation period of 24 weeks, in which case you are liable to get statutory parental bereavement pay. 

6. Can I take unpaid leave to go on holiday?

It is your employer’s choice to grant you leave for holiday vacations. 

7. Are employees allowed unpaid leave?

Yes. Employees are allowed unpaid leave in certain circumstances.

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