Time off for getting married or moving house

Written on 12 May 2022

There are certain big life events that can sometimes get in the way of work. Whether it’s a wedding or a big house move, employees will often want or need time off to attend important occasions or deal with significant life changes.

In more normal times, you may be able to accommodate these requests as, by nature, they are usually not all that frequent. However, due to a unique set of circumstances in 2022, employers may soon find that requests for time off to get married or move house start to come through thick and fast this summer.

Traditionally, June, July and August are the most popular months for people to get married. In fact, according to the 2021 Real Weddings Study, 80% of all weddings take place between May and October, meaning we’ve officially entered wedding season. On top of this, with the pandemic scuppering people’s wedding plans and forcing many to postpone until more normal times, numerous sources are predicting a massive wedding boom this summer.

Then there’s house moves. According to Rightmove’s 2022 forecast, a huge number of home-hunters are looking to move this year, fuelled in part by the shift to remote work, which has given people the freedom to move further afield in pursuit of more space as opposed to a shorter commute.

As an employer, you will no doubt want to be as flexible as possible when employees need time off to get married or move house. At the same time, you have a business to run. So what do you do? What rights do both parties have? Here’s what you need to know.

Are employees entitled to time off when getting married or moving house?

While employers may sympathise with their staff, UK law does not provide employees with a statutory right to time off because they are moving house, getting married or going on honeymoon. Such requests are granted at the employer’s discretion. 

This is in stark contrast to other EU countries. Spain, for example, is much more generous; employees are entitled to 15 calendar days off work when they tie the knot – starting from the first working day following the wedding – and one day when they move house.

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Annual leave

Because there is no legal right to time off for getting married or moving house, in most cases, employees will need to dip into their annual leave entitlement. 

In the UK, full-time employees have the right to 5.6 weeks (28 days) of paid annual leave per year. Generally, bank holidays are counted as part of this statutory 5.6 weeks. 

Those working part-time are entitled to the same amount of holiday as full-time employees, but their entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis. Part-time leave is calculated by multiplying the number of days worked per week by 5.6. For example, if an employee works three days a week, they will be entitled to 16.8 days paid leave a year.

If an employee has used up all of their annual leave entitlement but needs time off to move house or get married, they will have to take additional unpaid leave. 

In some cases, such as jury duty, employers are obligated to allow workers to take unpaid leave. However, if the employee is planning a long honeymoon trip or is in the process of buying a house and needs several days off to meet with solicitors and deal with paperwork, it will be up to the employer whether to grant time off. Note that there’s no maximum amount of unpaid leave from work that employees can take. 

You may choose to be more generous, incorporating certain provisions in employees’ contracts or your employee handbook to cover these types of events, whether paid or unpaid. 

You may also decide not to put any provisions in writing, instead exercising as much flexibility as possible as and when requests for time off are made, on a case-by-case basis. The danger, of course, is that without establishing a consistent position and approach, you could encounter unequal treatment disputes if, for example, one employee is granted time off for moving house and another is not.

The wider impact

Of course, employers can expect some grumbling if they reject an employee’s request for time off for certain one-off social occasions, especially if they have been given plenty of notice. 

After all, it can be difficult, if not impossible, for those in full-time employment to squeeze these things into their 37-or-so working week, so they may feel that having their request rejected is unreasonable on the employer’s part.

Indeed, weddings and house moves are particularly pivotal moments in many people’s lives, so feeling as though your employer doesn’t understand their significance, and their importance to you, could be hugely demoralising and breed resentment. 

Conversely, being as fair, reasonable and flexible as possible could work in the employer’s favour long term, as it’s likely to foster respect and loyalty, as well as make employees more motivated to work hard in the run up to their annual leave and more generally.

In the current climate of mass resignations, it’s incredibly important for organisations to keep their staff on side, and it’s these situations which could make all the difference. They are key opportunities to show employees that they are valued and that you care about what matters to them, so the impact of such decisions – positive and negative – shouldn’t be underestimated. 

Ultimately, granting time off where possible could undoubtedly contribute to an employee’s overall attitude towards work, supporting retention and improving performance.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to:

  • Only reject leave for legitimate business reasons
  • Encourage your team to collaborate with each other to coordinate time off
  • Encourage employees to give you as much notice as possible if they need time off for important life events

As well as keeping employees happy and reducing the risk of disputes, this will ensure operational business requirements are met, disruption is minimised, and issues are quickly resolved.

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