Accrual Leave: Definition, Examples, and How It Works

What are Accruals? A Guide to Accrual Accounting

Taking time off from work for any reason may require you to determine whether you can use accrued leave for your absence. The concept and exact processes of accrued leave can vary by employer or occupation but many companies follow common accrual structures

What is accrual?

Accruals are items, such as leave or holiday entitlement, that accrue over time rather than having a fixed amount. Employers regularly apply accruals for various events or activities. 

For example, accruals may allow employees to accrue paid time off hours according to the number of hours they work each week or month and accrue overtime pay accordingly. 

Employers or HR professionals can also use accruals to manage different types of leave, such as holiday entitlement, sick days, holidays, bank holidays, jury duty, and personal/family leave.

Differences between accrued and annual Leave

Accrued and annual leave provide workers with paid time off, but there are a few key differences between them. 

Accrued leave typically accrues daily or weekly, so the amount one earns will depend on the number of hours worked and the employment contract. 

Employers allot annual leave on a pre-estimated basis, making it available at specific times throughout the year. This type of leave is less flexible than annual leave regarding when employees must take it. Also, accrual programs can often offer more significant amounts to employees than annual leave plans, as accruals keep accruing, whereas the allotment remains fixed and given out in predetermined periods.

Benefits of accrual leave entitlement

Accrual leave has numerous benefits for employers and employees. It can help employers reduce absenteeism due to sick or vacation days taken, increasing employee productivity. 

Additionally, allowing employees to plan for their time off minimises the stress associated with planning a holiday entitlement or other types of leave. Finally, accrual leave helps ensure that all employees have access to some form of paid time off if they need it. 

For employees, accrual leave provides a way for them to get rewarded for staying with the company for a long time. This type of system encourages loyalty from staff members and creates an incentive for them to stay with the organisation longer. Also, having access to accrued holiday entitlement allows individuals more flexibility when taking the necessary amount of time off without worrying about financial repercussions or having too little money saved up.

How to calculate accrued holiday entitlement

Employers in many organisations decide how many hours to accrue each month or week, which can vary depending on the company based on the following factors: 

  • The number of hours an employee works per pay period: To calculate how much holiday an employee gets, you’ll need to know how many hours an employee works each. It may be full-time or part-time, and the number of hours per week or month may vary.
  • The length of the paid holiday period will also factor in leave accrual. For example, if an employee works a full-time schedule and is paid weekly, the pay period will be one week. The holiday pay entitlement will be two weeks if the employee is paid biweekly.
  • The leave accrual rate: The leave accrual rate is the amount of leave an employee earns per pay period. It will typically be expressed as the number of hours per pay period. For example, an employee who works full-time and makes 2.08 hours of leave per pay period will accrue 52 hours per year (assuming a 52-week pay period). 

To calculate annual holiday entitlement, you’ll need to multiply the leave accrual rate by the number of pay periods in a year. For example, if an employee works full-time, earns 2.08 hours of leave per pay period, and is paid biweekly (26 pay periods per year), the full annual entitlement would be 54.08 hours (2.08 x 26 = 54.08). 

It’s important to note that leave accrual policies may vary depending on the employer and the employee’s position. An employer may offer additional leave accrual for certain types of employment or employees who have been with the company for a specific time. Check with your employer or human resources department for details on your leave accrual policy.

Types of  leave accrual

The type of leave accrual system you have will determine how your employees earn their vacation days. Here are the main types of accrual leave:

Paid time off (PTO)

The most common leave accrual system is paid time off (PTO) or Paid leave. This system allows employees to accrue a certain amount of work each pay period and use it as they please without differentiating between sick days, vacation days, and other types of leave.

Sick Leave

This holiday accrual system provides employees with a set number of work for illness or injury each pay period. This system benefits the employer who wants to provide paid time off but doesn’t want them to take advantage of the sick leave policy.

Leave of absence

Leave of absence might be granted for various reasons, including personal or family health needs, pregnancy or parenting, military service/duty and educational purposes. By law, the employer must provide some form of compensation (e.g. paid time off or continuation of benefits) depending on the type of leave taken.

Other leaves include parental and maternity leave entitlement, depending on regions and business policies.

Reasons to track leave

Statutory annual leave accrual is essential to managing employee benefits and entitlements. 

Keeping track of accruals allows companies to ensure fairness and transparency in the distribution of paid time off. In addition, tracking accruals can help to ensure there won’t be a sudden spike in staffing costs due to large leave balances taken at once. 

Accountholders can review accrual records to monitor that their accrual rate is in line with the company’s accrual policy - this helps guard against potential issues like discrimination or unequal benefits for different levels of employees. 

Regular entitlement tracking can be a valuable tool for organisations looking to foster responsible use of paid time off, promote equitable compliance with accrual policies, and minimise costs associated with leave balances unexpectedly taken all at once.


In HR, leave accrual is a critical concept to understand. Employers must track and monitor annual entitlement to promote fairness, transparency, and cost-effectiveness. Understanding the different types of leave accrued can help employers ensure they are providing their employees with the proper amount of paid time off while also staying compliant with relevant laws. 

The key takeaway is that it’s essential to stay informed about accrued holiday policies, understand how the various types of leave are accrued and tracked, and be proactive in monitoring employee accrual balances. Doing so will help companies ensure their employees are receiving the proper amount of paid time off while preventing unexpected spikes in staffing costs.

Management Regulations