Refusing holiday requests

Aug 11, 2014 | Time Off Work

Although most managers and business owners will agree holiday requests if possible, there are likely to be times where this is difficult. Here are some frequently asked questions about refusing holiday to help you manage this situation.

Am I entitled to refuse a holiday request?

Yes absolutely. While you must ensure employees are entitled to (and actually take) their statutory holiday entitlement, you are not obliged to let them take it on days of their choosing, and sometimes this will not be possible.

What notice do I have to give of refusal?

You may have specified notice periods for both booking and refusing holiday requests in your contracts or a policy, but otherwise the requirement for refusing holiday is to give the same amount of notice as the duration of the holiday booked.

Do I need a reason?

Well you don’t have to give a reason, however it is sensible to do so for the purposes of maintaining goodwill and avoiding very aggrieved employees. You should also ensure you only refuse holiday requests when actually necessary on business grounds for the same reason. Usually this will be at particularly busy times, or because too many staff have already booked the same dates.

Is there anything I can do to avoid having to refuse holiday requests?

It’s never pleasant having to tell someone they can’t have the days off they want, and leads to disappointment and frustration. The best way of avoiding this is by encouraging staff not to book holiday on dates that are likely to be refused in the first place.

You can do this by having a clear policy specifying the following:

  • Details of any times holiday will not be authorised at all.
  • Details of how much notice is required for holidays and what booking arrangements and requirements are.
  • Confirmation of any restrictions in terms of number of staff allowed to be off simultaneously.
  • Details of how holiday will be allocated for especially popular times such as Christmas or school holidays, if you operate a system of taking turns, first come first served or similar.
  • A reminder that staff should not make flights or hotel bookings or similar before a request has been agreed.

If staff are clear on these things the chances of them trying to book holiday on dates that are going to be refused are much smaller.

Can I refuse to allow a member of staff to take holiday during their notice period?

Yes absolutely, in the same way as any other time. You may feel you need a key member of staff to be present for their entire notice period for the purposes of an effective handover, however do be aware that if the member of staff has accrued holiday and not taken it, if you don’t allow (or require) them to take it during their notice period, you will have to pay them in lieu of this entitlement on termination.

Can I cancel holiday I’ve already agreed?

Yes you can, as long as you give the appropriate notice, however it is not advisable to do this unless absolutely essential, in extreme circumstances as obviously it can lead to a lot of resentment and unhappiness.

If you do think you need to cancel a holiday already booked, consider first whether there is any alternative arrangements you could make at all to cover the requirement. Find out whether the employee has booked a trip or incurred costs and consider whether you can reimburse these, and also consider the impact on family of cancelling the request. Will other family members going on the trip be able to rearrange leave at short notice, for example?

Is this a family holiday during school holiday time that cannot take place on alternative dates? Consider whether there is any way you can make up for the inconvenience to your employee, and only cancel if absolutely unavoidable. Although you are entitled to cancel agreed requests, it would be sensible to include a clause in contracts or your annual leave policy making clear that you may do this.

If you have any further queries and need some advice, do get in touch