As children around the Midlands return to school, businesses would normally be forgiven for thinking the holiday season is all behind them.

But, with a big change in the law just around the corner, employers are being reminded to review their holiday practices.

From October 1 statutory minimum holiday entitlement increases from 20 days to 24 days for normal full-time workers, with a further rise to 28 days a year in April 2009.

This means that businesses which currently provide less than 24 days paid leave for full-time workers have under a month to get up to speed with the new rules.

And according to employment lawyers in Birmingham this fast-approaching deadline could catch some businesses out, leaving them in breach of their obligations.

"As many companies shift their focus from managing staff holidays to concentrating on the job in hand, they would be wise to pay attention to next month's changes, as in some cases they significantly boost the amount of paid holiday that workers are entitled to," said Teresa Dolan, a partner at Hammonds in Birmingham.

"Failing to provide workers with the correct amount of holiday is a sure-fire way for bosses to land themselves in hot water both with their employees and the law."

Under the current system, employers are allowed to include bank holidays within the 20 days minimum entitlement, so that some workers receive just 12 days' holiday to take in their own time, once public holidays are accounted for. By increasing the minimum entitlement to 28 days by April 2009, the Government is targeting these employers to ensure that workers have at least

20 days' holiday that they can take when they choose. "Companies that provide less than 24 days holiday for workers inclusive of bank holidays must act now to ensure they up their provision by the deadline," said Ms Dolan.

"Exactly how much additional holiday workers will be entitled to will depend on when a company's leave year starts and will be calculated proportionally. Fortunately the Government has taken the pain out of doing these calculations by providing a free, web-based calculator for employers to use."

And further help is at hand for businesses that have yet to prepare for the changes and are worried about covering unexpected additional staff holiday.

"From October, until the changes are fully implemented in April 2009, provided that both the worker and the employer agree, businesses will be able to replace the additional holiday entitlement with a payment in lieu. This will help businesses which find themselves with the headache of finding staff to cover unexpected additional days off," Ms Dolan added.

While UK employers may be counting the cost of providing additional days holiday for its workers - changes that the Government estimates will benefit almost six million workers - Ms Dolan points out that the UK still approaches holiday leave very differently to other European countries.

"Despite the improvements in full-time workers' holiday rights, the UK will still remain at the bottom of the league table for paid holiday entitlement in the EU. According to data produced by Incomes Data Services, workers in Denmark top the league with a whopping 39.5 days per year.

"Whether you see the UK changes as good news for workers or another challenge for the region's employers, we still have a long way to go to match the paid holiday offered by our European counterparts."