A guide to superyacht crew leave

Offered By Yachtcru

Every year, countless superyacht crew miss out on leave days because they have no idea what they’re entitled to. So, we’ve put together the following few points that should be kept in mind when sorting out crew leave. Some points are set in stone, others are defined by the yacht. All should be outlined in flag state regulations and the Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA).

Note: For non-MLC yachts there is no statutory right to earn leave.

1. Leave allowance

The MLC 2006 (amended) sets a minimum allowance of two and a half days paid annual leave per month. However, depending on the flag of the vessel, additional public holiday days are also added. Below, we list a selection of minimums outlined by seven flag states:

Minimum annual leave figures

Flag Flag minimum Public holiday Total (days per year)
Bermuda 2.5 per month 1.5 per month 48
BV 2.5 per month 13 per year 43
Cayman Islands 2.5 per month 8 per year 38
Isle of Man 2.5 per month 10 per year 40
Malta 2.5 per month 14 per year 44
Marshall Islands 2.5 per month 5 per year 35
UK 2.5 per month 8 per year 38

2. What is leave

Amazingly, this can dramatically vary from yacht to yacht. A good example is leave for training. On some yachts, training days are granted as work days (you’re paid and accrue leave). In this scenario, the number of ‘paid training days’ will be noted in the SEA. On other yachts, the crew are required to use their annual leave for training.

The following should not be counted as leave under MLC:

  • Shore leave
  • Public and customary holidays, whether or not they fall during the booked annual leave (public holidays are already added to the leave allowance)
  • Periods of incapacity for work resulting from illness or injury or from maternity
  • Compensatory leave of any kind, e.g a day in lieu

The Cayman flag also includes the following point:

  • Any time taken travelling to, or returning from, a ship

For details on leave types and calculation see: Calculating Yacht Crew Leave


3. Check the wording

As the leave allowance is defined in the SEA you should always check the wording of the agreement. Some of the following points are quite common.

  • Leave must be taken within the leave year

  • Not entitled to carry leave over

These lines mean that leave is not rolled over from one year to the next. The year ends on the crew members anniversary date. In other words, use it or lose it

  • The yacht will be entitled to make deductions from any amounts due from you to the yacht in respect of annual leave taken in excess of your annual leave entitlement

You guessed it. Crew members leaving the yacht with a negative leave balance, can have the deficit deduct from their salary.

  • Leave is to be taken at the master’s discretion

Be aware that captains and owners dislike paying out leave to departing crew members. So consider the following. A crew member gives a month’s notice to leave the yacht with a 30-day leave balance. The captain can make the crew member take that leave now, so the yacht doesn’t need to pay out that 30-day balance.

  • Annual leave will not accrue during your probation period

This is not allowed under the MLC.

4. Travel days

The MLC states, “Travel time involved should not be deducted from the annual leave with pay due to the seafarer.” However, it doesn’t say anything about travel days accruing leave. For SEA agreements that have leave set above the minimum leave allowance (such as a 3:3 rotational position), it is quite common for travel days not to accrue leave.

5. Quarantine days

Seeing as this is all relatively new, flag states have needed to put out shipping notices to cover this type of leave. The following is stated in the Cayman Islands Guidance Notes: 

Mandatory quarantine (legally imposed)

“Any ‘mandatory quarantine’ not in or at the seafarer’s agreed place of repatriation on joining or leaving a ship should be considered as the seafarer still being in the service of the ship.”

Legally imposed quarantine, away from your “agreed place of repatriation” is part of the service period.

Precautionary self-isolation (imposed by the yacht)

“Any ‘precautionary self-isolation’ may not be considered as in the service of the ship and is at the discretion of the employer.”

Quarantine imposed by the yacht, is up to the yacht to handle as it sees fit. Many crew have had their time in quarantine covered by the employer and are paid a day rate. This may also be considered ‘neutral leave or Nil days’, so they will not use nor accrue leave for time spent in quarantine.

Crew leave app

In summary, although leave seems straightforward, it can get quite murky, and has the potential to cause pay disputes on termination settlements. Many of the different leave types are not defined in the SEA and are at the yacht's discretion. To reduce potential disputes, it is advised to utilise a system that is transparent about how the leave is tracked and calculated.


Read further specialist crew tips in our Crew Corner library.

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