The Lowdown on Workplace Holiday Entitlement

3 Aug

For many businesses, the hot weather brings an increase in trade. However, for others, it means a decrease in workloads as people prefer to spend their time on the beach or in the park.

A sudden increase or decrease in work can cause major resource issues for organisations, particularly at a time when employees want to take leave themselves. Many businesses often react to these fluctuations by cancelling leave to ensure higher staffing levels or by forcing employees to take annual leave when it is quiet.

Can employers cancel employee holidays?

Employers can only cancel an employee’s period of annual leave if they give the required notice. An employer can require an employee not to take annual leave on particular days by giving the employee notice of at least the same length as the period of leave to be cancelled.

Employers can agree alternative rules with their workforce about the notice required to book and cancel leave. If this is the case, they should ensure that they comply with any such workforce agreement or contractual arrangements. However, employers should think very carefully about cancelling an employee’s leave, particularly if they have committed to paying for flights or hotels. Cancelling leave may result in a breach of trust and confidence which could give the employee the right to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

Furthermore, it is likely that the employee will take the time off anyway, perhaps calling in sick. Employers also need to bear in mind that cancelling a period of leave that the employee has been looking forward to is not going to be good for future relations.

Finally, an employer cannot cancel a period of annual leave if it means that the employee is not able to take his or her full statutory annual leave entitlement in that leave year.

Can employers force employees to take holiday?

An employer can tell their employees when to take their leave. However, they must give two days’ notice for every day they want the employee to take holiday, subject to there not being alternative timescales agreed between the parties. As long as the request to take leave is a reasonable request and is non-discriminatory, an employee normally can’t turn down an instruction to take leave.

Can employers refuse an employee’s holiday request?

The general notice period for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of leave an employee wants to take. However, an organisation’s employee handbook may say something different or employers may be prepared for staff to take holidays at shorter notice, particularly if it suits the business needs.

An employer can refuse a leave request but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested. Employers can restrict when leave can be taken e.g. during certain busy periods. It is unlikely that many ice cream shop workers will be allowed to take time off over the next couple of months, for instance!

Although employers can refuse to give leave at a certain time, they can’t refuse to let workers take the leave at all and must ensure that employees have adequate opportunity to take all their holiday entitlement during the current holiday year. All workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks annual leave a year, or more if their contract provides for this.

If you have any queries or require further information, please contact Lauren Dickinson on 02920 853794 or at