employee holiday requests

Managing employee holiday requests during the summer months.

Managing employee holiday requests during the summer months.

Managing last-minute holiday requests during the summer can be challenging for employers. Especially when many businesses find that this is their busiest time of the year! Employers often find themselves in a position where they may have to consider declining employee holiday requests and are unsure how to manage the process if an employee takes the leave without authorisation.


All UK employees are entitled to annual leave. The statutory minimum being 5.6 weeks for full time employees. For part-time workers, this is calculated pro rata.

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of their entitlement and encourage them to plan holidays in advance. This can be outlined in both the employment contracts and staff handbooks.

We advise that if there are times where the business requires staff to take annual leave (such as a Christmas closure period) then this is explicitly stated in the contractual documents. Equally, if there are times of the year where the business cannot justifiably accept annual leave requests, then this should also be explicitly outlined. 

Refusing Employee Holiday Requests:

There will be times where employers may need to consider refusing annual leave requests. Employers can refuse employee holiday requests if they feel the business cannot function properly due to multiple employees being off simultaneously for example.

It’s essential to communicate clearly with employees about the reasons for refusal and explore alternative solutions. In addition, it is important that you ensure that you do allow the employee time off at an alternative date, as refusal to allow the employee taking annual leave at all would be breaching their statutory right.

Last-Minute Requests:

Employees must provide notice for holiday requests; the length of time should also be clear within handbooks and contracts. While there’s no fixed legal notice period, it’s advisable to require at least twice the length of the planned holiday.

Employers can refuse last-minute requests to avoid creating a precedent where employees consistently make these last-minute requests. Employers will need to rely on their policies to refer to the notice period the employee should have given.

Employees taking the leave when declined:

Unfortunately, there will be times that an employee will take the leave without authorisation. Employers must be careful to avoid any potential discrimination claims and consider whether the cause for the leave is due to reasons such as childcare or care of a dependent. In these cases, employers should carefully consider all options before declining the leave and seek advice from their HR department.

Where an employee has taken their annual leave without authorisation, and it is clearly a case of misconduct, they will be on unauthorised absence. The employer can likely follow investigation and potential disciplinary processes in these cases and should seek advice from HR/employment law specialists before issuing any formal sanctions.

Communication and Flexibility:

Employers should always encourage open communication between employees and management. Culture is key in maintaining a good relationship with your workforce.

Consider flexible working arrangements or remote work during peak holiday seasons. This could avoid last minute requests and long periods out of the business that could cause disruption.

Fairness and consistency when handling requests are essential. 

Remember, to avoid any potential employment dispute, cancelling or declining holidays should be a last resort. A legitimate business reason needs to be given, to maintain positive employee relations and keep your workforce productive and thriving.

To find out more information or if you require support managing employee holidays get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037

E: contact@hpc.uk.com

LinkedIn: High Performance Consultancy

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