What You Need To Know About Holidays and Sickness

Everyone gets stick right? And it’s not unreasonable that you’re going to want to spend some time off to go on holiday (current Covid situation aside). All companies have slightly different procedures for managing absence, in this post I’m oing to talk about my experience over the majority of UK companies. Your company will almost certainly be slightly different, those are the differences you need to understand during your first fiew days.


Nobody wants to get sick, but it does happen. In my experience most companies in the UK which hire software developers will have a certain number of paid days of sick leave. This is often not contractual, but layed out in a handbook somewhere. How many days varies massively from company to company and it’s often worth trying to understand ahead of time.

Almost every company I have ever worked for expects you to call your manager if you wake up feeling too sick to work. Some are happy with a message but you should always understand what these procedures are before the inevitable day when you wake up full of cold and can’t drag yourself into work.

Everyone gets sick, but it’s worth understanding your company’s procedures before you do. Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Many companies use a system called The Bradford Factor to assess sickness. This is a calculation which calculates a score. Companies often have a threshold of what score they’re willing to accept before they stop paying sickness days. It’s worth being aware that the system weights number of occurrences far more severely than number of days. So someone taking every Monday off sick because they’re feeling a bit hung over would score far higher than someone who caught a nasty bug and was off for a week. I should stress very clearly though – sickness policies are a benefit designed to support employees who genuinely aren’t feeling well so they don’t feel financialy pressured into spreading germs around the office. They’re not free days off because you’re feeling a little worse for wear after a late night.

Planned surgeries and procedures are often handled slightly differently and you should discuss what options are available. Some companies may support you. Others may ask you take some (or all) of the time as holiday.

One of your tasks in the first week at your new company should be to understand exactly what the policy for sickness is.


Let’s assume that coronavirus is a thing of the past and we’re all flying around the world to ski and relax by swimming pools.

Most UK companies offer a number of paid days off. You are legally entitled to Bank Holidays (or a substitute day) and will often have a number of days which you can book whenever you wish. In the UK the minimum is 28 days, but you should expect that 8 of those are the bank holidays. However, some companies may offer 25 + 8 or even more. It’s not uncommon for employees’ holiday allowances to increase the longer they remain with a company. It’s worth remembering that you take 5 days off each week as most software companies don’t work weekends.

When this virus is over we can all go back to enjoying holidays we enjoy. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Usually you have to book holidays and have them approved by your line manager. It’s usually good etiquette to give as much notice as possible. The typical rule is to give as least as much notice as the time you’re intending to take but personally if you’re planning on taking a week or more I’d encourage you to give as much notice as warning. It’s rare for managers to refuse holidays unless there’s a good reason, especially with lots of notice.

A few final points – always make sure you understand when the holiday calendar starts and finishes (your first year’s holidays will probably be pro-rata’d). If you can carry over any untaken holiday into the next year and if there are any conditions, and what the company’s rules are over Christmas time. It’s not uncommon for offices to shut and companies require employees to save several days of holiday for the gap between Christmas and New Year.

Hopefully this has been helpful and has given you an idea of what to expect. As I said at the beginning of the post expectations will vary from company to company and hugely as you move around the world. I can only speak about my experience in the UK. You should always try and understand the sickness and holiday policies of your company as soon as possible. Before joining ideally, but for various reasons it’s probably not something I’d ask in an interview – perhaps a good question for a recruiter?

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