How to maximise your 2024 annual leave


Already planning your time off next year? Aligning your annual leave with public holidays is an easy way to maximise your time away.

As we enter December there will be plenty of people eagerly staring at their calendars and mentally crossing off the days until the end of year holidays begin. The more organised may even be thinking about their 2024 holiday plans.

Most full-time workers in Australia have 20 days of annual leave to play with each year, but those looking to really maximise their time away from work could find it beneficial to line up any vacation plans they have with public holidays in the calendar.

the hack to more than double your annual leave in 2024

Of course, public holidays do vary between the states and territories. So we've compiled some of the best dates to take off in 2024 in order to help you stretch out your time away while using as little annual leave as possible.

January 2024

  • The holiday: Australia Day (January 26)
  • Where: Everywhere
  • Potential break: Nine days (January 20 - January 29)

Australia Day sits on a Friday in 2024, so those planning to take it off will already have a long weekend to look forward to. But anyone looking to extended their summer holiday, or perhaps take a second summer break after a few weeks back at work, can take four days of annual leave in the lead up to Australia Day (January 22, 23, 24 and 25) for a total nine-day break.

March 2024

  • The holidays: Canberra Day, Adelaide Cup Day, Eight Hours Day and Labour Day (March 11)
  • Where: ACT, SA, TAS, VIC
  • Potential break: Nine days (March 9 - March 18)

Plenty of people will be completely unaware that millions of Australians get the day off work each year for Canberra Day (Australian Capital Territory), Adelaide Cup Day (South Australia), Eight Hours Day (Tasmania) and Labour Day (Victoria) respectively.

Given that March 11 is a Monday, many workers in those parts of the country will already be able to enjoy a long weekend, but those looking to make the most of the last bit of heat in the first half of the year may want to take an extended nine-day break by also taking leave on March 12, 13, 14 and 15.

March/April 2024

  • The holidays: Good Friday (March 29) and Easter Monday (April 1)
  • Where: Everywhere
  • Potential break: 16 days (March 25 - April 8)

Easter always offers up one of the best opportunities of the year for those looking to strategically use their annual leave to create as long a break as possible, and 2024 is no different.

There are a couple of options, but the longest can be achieved by taking eight days of annual leave (March 25, 26, 27 and 28, plus April 2, 3, 4, and 5) to create a 16-day holiday. Alternatively it's possible to take off either the four days leading up to Good Friday, or following Easter Monday, to create a 10-day break at the expense of four annual leave days.

April 2024

  • The holiday: ANZAC Day (April 25)
  • Where: Everywhere
  • Potential break: Nine days (April 20 - April 29)

ANZAC Day falls on a Thursday in 2024, which creates a couple of options for those looking to take a bit of extra time off work. The first is to simply take the Friday (April 26) as annual leave to create a four-day long weekend. The second is to book in April 22, 23, 24 and 26 as annual leave which, with the public holiday and both weekends, creates a nine-day stretch without work for four days of leave.

June 2024

  • The holidays: King's Birthday and Sovereign's Birthday (June 10)
  • Where: ACT, NSW, NT, SA, TAS, VIC
  • Potential break: Nine days (June 8 - June 17)

While Queensland and Western Australia celebrate it later in the year, June 10 will be the date on which most of the country recognises King Charles' birthday in 2024. This falls on a Monday, so it's already a baked-in long weekend, but those looking to extend their time off beyond the public holiday will be able to take a nine-day break by booking in June 11, 12, 13 and 14 as annual leave.

October 2024

  • The holidays: Labour Day and King's Birthday (October 7)
  • Where: ACT, NSW, QLD, SA
  • Potential break: Nine days (October 5 - October 14)

Compared to the first six months of the year when there's no shortage of public holidays, the second half of the year is sparser - outside of a few regional holidays. Labour Day (Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia) and the King's Birthday (Queensland) on October 7 are exceptions to that though.

Workers in those states and territories looking to make the most of spring can take a nine-day break for the price of four days of annual leave. All they'll need to do is take annual leave on the four days following the Monday public holiday (October 8, 9, 10 and 11) which, when combined with the weekends, comes out at nine days off.

December 2024 /January 2025

  • The holidays: Christmas (December 25), Boxing Day (December 26), New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Where: Everywhere
  • Potential break: 16 days (December 21 - January 6)

It's true that Christmas 2024 is a long way away, but for those who are looking to get organised early (perhaps with international travel plans in mind), the Christmas and New Year's public holidays offer one of the best ways to take a decent block of time off for as few annual leave days as possible.

For seven days of annual leave, workers can have 16 days off between December 21, 2024 and January 6, 2025. How does it work? Well, take December 23, 24, 27, 30, 31 plus January 2 and 3 as annual leave which - when combined with the three public holidays and three sets of weekends - comes out at 16 days.

Five common questions about leave answered

1. Can employers force employees to take annual leave?

In short, yes. There are a couple of situations in which an employer can compel a worker to take annual leave, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman, such as during a shutdown (e.g. over the Christmas break) or if someone has accumulated excess leave. The latter will be determined by the particular award someone is on, but as one example, a plumber covered by the plumbing award could be told to take annual leave if they have eight weeks or more accrued.

2. Will you keep accruing annual leave while you're on annual leave?

Yes. You could be sitting in a café in Florence using annual leave and still be (slowly) building up your annual leave balance while you're away. It also continues to accrue while you're on sick or carers leave, long service leave or even when you're on certain kinds of unpaid leave (such as jury duty).

3. Can you use sick leave for a mental health day?

You can certainly take a day off (or more) for your mental health, but unless your employer offers dedicated mental health days, it will generally need to be taken as sick leave or personal leave.

4. Can sick leave be taken while on annual leave?

It's not a situation anyone will want to find themselves in, but imagine travelling overseas for a much-needed holiday only to be struck down with the flu. Burning through your precious annual leave while you're cooped up in bed doesn't sound much fun, so the good news is that it's possible to use your sick leave instead of your annual leave in that situation.

5. Can you take leave without pay or leave at half pay?

It is possible, but taking leave at half pay or without pay may come down to an employers' discretion or the award someone is on. For example, the Fair Work Ombudsman says that some awards do allow employees to take leave at half pay.

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Tom Watson is a senior journalist at Money magazine, and one of the hosts of the Friends With Money podcast. He's previously worked as a journalist covering everything from property and consumer banking to financial technology. Tom has a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney.