As employees scramble to book their holidays in the sun, the summer months can be a headache for employers.
On the one hand, employers want staff to take a break and enjoy themselves. But on the other, they don’t want to end up with an empty workplace.
So can an employer refuse an employee’s request for annual leave?
The short answer is…
Yes. If an employer thinks an employee’s absence will have a negative impact on your business, they can turn down their request for leave.
An unhappy employee might tell their employer it’s against the law, but it’s simply not true. The Working Time Regulations 1998 only state that employers must give workers a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave. They don’t say anything about when employers have to give workers that time off.
To avoid confusion, employers often include an annual leave policy in workers contracts of employment and company handbook. The policy should set out how staff put in requests for leave, how much notice they need to give employers, and also mention that employees might not accept their requests during busy periods.
Employers can also include:
• A cap on how many employees from one department can go on leave at the same time.
• The maximum length of continuous leave an employee can take, for example, two weeks.
• Any seasonal restrictions, like the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Whatever rules employers set, they should be flexible. So if they have a long-serving employee who wants to take three weeks off to go backpacking in Australia, employers often don’t shut her down just because the rules say the maximum is two weeks.
Employers are advised to let employees down gently
When employers turn down an employees request for leave, they should let them know why they’re doing so, for example, because too many staff members have asked for time off at the same time.
It’s also good practice for employers to offer employees alternative dates that would be less disruptive to the business.
Employers are advised to be smart about annual leave
Remember, even if an employer does not allow staff to go on holiday at a particular time, they still need to give them the legal minimum amount of time off in a year.
If they don’t, they could end up in front of an employment tribunal.
But if employers plan ahead, communicate with their staff and have a comprehensive annual leave policy, they will be well placed to keep the business running smoothly and keep employees happy.