I'm in the UK, I requested a day of annual leave for the day after a deadline (~3 weeks time) which will result in an estimated 4AM finish for me (could be earlier or later, so 2AM-5AM). I will be the only person carrying out this task at this time.

I am not needed in the office after finishing that task, as we have other people who are already fully briefed, trained and ready to take over with any 'support' needs after the deadline.

So, I put in a request to take the next day as annual leave from my holiday entitlement. So I can sleep!

My boss has said that this needs to be recorded as "sick" leave as I have said in advance that I'd be unfit for work that day (who wouldn't be, after working until 3-4AM to start again for a normal 9-5!)

If recorded as sick leave it could be counted against me in the future for disciplinary actions, taken into account in layoffs (redundancies), etc. We also use the "Bradford factor" which considers the number of times taken off "sick" already to determine how severe the current situation is.

I won't be "sick"! I will be recovering from 4AM demands of the job - but I guess they need to classify it somehow.

What can I say to my boss and HR to get them to record this as paid holiday rather than sick?

ETA: what have I tried so far: I've spoken to my boss requesting the day off, and he consulted HR and came back with the "he's indicated he will be unfit for work on [specific date] so we have to record it as sick". Not sure if relevant but our HR is in my view inept, untrained and only has the HR position due to politics and doesn't have any actual HR training.

  • 4
    If you didn't book time off, would you be expected to be at the office at your usual start time after being up until 4AM working on a release? What do people usually do about that? Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 21:54
  • 7
    Are you salaried - in this case and I have done this you take Time Off In Lieu and why on earth would you take your annual leave here. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:37
  • 3
    Wow, if the company/boss is so understanding, how could anyone refuse doing crunch work... Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 5:38
  • 3
    @Sophie And in my not so humble opinion, this measurement is the absolutely worst BS that I have ever heard of. But then absolute BS is not unusual to see in HR circles.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:05
  • 4
    Is it possible that the boss thinks he is doing you a favour by saving you a day off? Mistakes happen. Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:12

4 Answers 4


You are employed to work standard office hours, but your company has asked you to work out of hours to meet their needs. It is usual for them to adjust your hours before and after this time, you should not need to take it as either holiday or sick time. Many companies would also pay a higher rate for work performed out of hours.

I would approach your boss and ask to review the hours he would like you to work around this release. It may be a miscommunication, or he may not have realised what he is asking of you. It is important that you are well rested during the deployment, so it is not in the company's interests for you to be doing that at the end of a 20 hour shift. Anyone is more likely to make mistakes when they are tired.

A standard shift is 8 hours plus a meal break. I would propose that you arrive at the office around 3pm, so you can have any necessary handover from the staff who are working normal office hours. You will then have a long period of downtime from say 6pm - midnight. Then you will be looking out for the go ahead and the second half of your shift.

Alternatively, propose that you work the morning as normal, then return home at lunchtime and sleep in the afternoon. Return to the office around midnight for the release, then return home for more sleep and maybe work from home the following afternoon.

You will need to work out a pattern that makes most sense to you and your business. Remember to factor in meals, commuting and sleep. Work together as a team to come up with a solution that meets everyone's needs.

  • 5
    I don't see why the OP should go into so much trouble to compensate the bad management. THEY should have something in place for such situations, and if they don't THEY should come with a proposition to the OP, not the other way around. There is ALWAYS a solution, was it not 100% official or documented. Letting your employee take an annual leave or a sick day is putting the burden on him and is not fair-play if you ask me...
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:32
  • 1
    @LaurentS.If the OP was just being asked to perform the out of hours work now then I'd agree with you, however the OP has already agreed to do the out of hours work. They now need to renegotiate the terms of that work, which puts them in a weaker position than when they were first asked to do the work.
    – thelem
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 12:11

According to my google-fu, workers in the UK are entitled to 11 hours between shifts in a 24 hour period: https://smallbusiness.co.uk/what-is-the-legal-number-of-hours-employees-can-have-between-shifts-23066/

So you could bring that up, particularly if you are being requested to put in this overtime.

  • The op hasn't said if they are hourly paid or salaried. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:38
  • @Neuromancer I'm not sure if that matters. Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 23:48
  • 5
    IN the UK it does Salaried employees have different rules to hourly paid shift workers - and Salaried employees are normally opted out. Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 0:07
  • I "opted out" of the working time regs as a condition of my contract, but I believe the WTR requires a 11 hour break but if it doesn't happen due to operational needs it has to be made up at a later date, so isn't "mandatory" as such.
    – user101517
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 22:12
  • @Neuromancer: These rules are due to EU regulations and while you can opt out of the maximum working hours, you can not be forced to do so. And lacking a specific provision, you can't opt out of the mandatory rest. See: ec.europa.eu/social/…
    – Sefe
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 20:30

So you are offering to work well over your requirement, not ask for a day in lieu but lose a day of your annual paid leave, but they want you to take a hit on your Bradford Factor numbers? You are making two sacrifices to help the company and they are penalising you for that.

Go to your manager, point out that your goodwill will cause you to lose a night of your personal life and a day of your holiday allocation. The sickness at issue is something they will be the direct cause of. They are going to deliberately inflict this unfitness to work, you are prepared to accept that, but the company's response is a punishment.

The Bradford Factor is usually used where an organisation expects to have high levels of absenteeism and wants to reduce them by punishing or firing staff. They (often erroneously) assume they can make up the numbers by recruiting new people. The response of staff is often to unionise and the give-and-take and goodwill that exists between employer and employee vanishes - cf the Prison Service in the UK.

  • 3
    For a nice explanation of the "Bradford Factor" see this: activabsence.co.uk/bradford-factor-calculator2 Read it and then tell us if it makes you throw up.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 10:23
  • They do have a high level of absenteeism (in my team and many others) due to an overly liberal policy in the past, but the Bradford Factor is used as standard in many companies here (as I understand it).
    – user101517
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 22:14

Consult your contract

I'm no lawyer, so I can't give you a legal position. Contracts for things like software development usually specify something like 'may be required to work additional hours to meet the demands of the business'. Sometimes they also specify that you get time off in lieu or overtime payment, sometimes they just grant the employer license to make demands of you.

Don't give them a stick to beat you

You are saying you won't be productive and won't come in, but that puts the burden on you to justify why. Tell your manager you don't want to take a sick day, so you will come in as usual. A sensible manager should tell you not to worry, but if your manager is not sensible you may need to just turn up and be tired.

Why are you even doing this?

I think some of this comes down to why you are going to be working so late (or why you have done so previously) - are these demands of the business, or have you broken something you need to fix? If this is being inflicted on you by the way they do business or poor project management, then you need to be very clear on whether you have to do it, whether this is voluntary or not.

I would expect voluntary additional work to get you few favours in terms of taking time off, even if it's helpful to the business. Involuntary (i.e. you are not given a choice) additional work should attract some sort of compensation in the contract. As a result, you might consider not offering to do the work voluntarily, and thus make them decide whether the cost to them is worth making you do it.

It's easy to give your time away

Bosses like that. Bad bosses love it. Don't make yourself the solution to problems of management.

  • I haven't broken anything, it's an incremental release of a system which we have been working on for a while and this date is when it goes live. But we have to do this release each qtr due to service level agreements etc. It's possible to just "turn up tired" but a. I don't think I will be safe to drive (its not served by public transport, alternative is a 4 mile walk) and b. I think turning up tired would be seen as a passive-aggressive (look what you made me do!) or just passive (I have to do this to keep my job...) move.
    – user101517
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 22:18

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