The law recognises that we all need a break from work now and again and a period of annual leave enables us to return to work refreshed and motivated for the challenges ahead. As such, workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave each year which is the statutory minimum. Some employers allow a higher entitlement.

However, employers often come to us on the understanding that they cannot refuse a holiday request made by a member of staff and cannot cancel a period of holiday that has already been approved. This is not the case.

You are able to refuse a holiday request. An obvious example where you may need to refuse the request is when several members of staff in a team or department are already on holiday on the dates requested and it would not be practical for another worker to take leave due to the effect that this would have on the team’s ability to meet business demands.

To decline the request, you will need to provide the worker with a counter notice. This must be given in advance and the length of the notice must be the same as the period of leave that the worker has requested. For example, if the worker has requested one weeks holiday, the counter notice must be given at least one week before the holiday. Employers need to be careful to ensure that rejecting holiday requests does not then prevent a worker from being able to take their holiday entitlement in the relevant leave year. It is also important to give consideration as to when a counter notice is appropriate as they are unpopular with staff and should therefore only be used when there is a genuine business need and it is advisable to explain this reason clearly to the worker in question.

In some circumstances, you may find that you need to cancel annual leave that has been approved previously. Again, you must provide the appropriate amount of notice as above. You should consider carefully your reasons for cancelling any annual leave requested as this can have a negative impact on workplace morale and could affect the worker financially in relation to any holiday they may have already booked.

It is also possible for you to request that staff take their annual leave on certain dates. A common occurrence is where a business has a site closure over Christmas and staff are asked to take a certain number of days annual leave entitlement. There should be good business reasons for requesting staff to take leave on certain dates as this may prevent staff from taking annual leave at other times of year, particularly in relating to observing certain religious dates.

You can also stipulate the maximum number of days holiday a worker can take at any one time to ensure business demands are met.

To ensure the smooth running of your business, it is advisable to have clear rules about booking annual leave that could be set out in the worker’s contract of employment or in a holiday policy contained in your staff handbook.

If you require advice on holiday requests, the drafting of a staff handbook or holiday policy or any other employment law query, please contact Farleys Employment Law & HR team on 0845 287 0939 or email us here.