Workers could get an extra eight days holiday each year under plans announced today by employment minister Jim Fitzpatrick.
Changes to legislation will mean employers can no longer include bank holidays as part of a worker's 20-day statutory holiday.
Currently around six million workers have the UK's eight bank holidays included as part of their annual leave.
Those most likely to be affected will be low-paid and part-time workers, including many women.
"People work hard and they deserve a decent break. We want to make sure everyone gets the holiday they are entitled to," said Mr Fitzpatrick.
"Holidays are also important for productivity as they help minimise sick leave and keep people motivated and refreshed."
The move was welcomed by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
"Millions of hard-working employees across the UK have much to smile about today, and many of those who will get more time off work will be low paid women," he said.
"Some employers will moan at having to give their staff additional holiday, but smart bosses already give their employees more than the minimum entitlement, because it makes good business sense to do so."
The increase would be phased in over two years, with a rise from 20 to 24 days in October 2007 and another four-day rise a year later.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: "We've worked closely with business and have wanted to make sure that they have time to prepare for the changes."
But the TUC disagreed. "The change to leave is affordable and could have been introduced in one go. The government didn't need to opt for phasing in, as the cost of introducing this measure has been overstated," Mr Barber said.
The UK has a lower annual leave allowance than most European countries. In Ireland, workers have a minimum of 29 days and in Austria, all workers are entitled to 38 days holiday.