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Janey Rankin


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Emma O'Connor


We all know the benefits of taking a break, but are your managers making sure holiday is being taken by their staff? As we approach the thick of summer season, Janey Rankin, Trainee Solicitor and Emma O’Connor, Director, remind HR and managers of the importance of taking holiday and how to deal with multiple holiday requests from employees.

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The benefits of holiday entitlement

Statutory minimum paid holiday leave was introduced as a health and safety measure under the Working Time Regulations 1998.  Many employers choose to enhance statutory minimum holiday in their contracts of employment.  Holidays are beneficial to both employers and employees. It allows employees to rest and recoup, allowing for a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. But can an employer refuse a holiday request?


The right to holiday leave

By law, employees, and workers have a statutory minimum right to 5.6 weeks’ holiday leave each holiday year. This is the same for part-time employees and workers, except the 5.6 weeks are prorated depending on the number of days worked per week. Statutory minimum holiday can include public or bank holidays, depending on what your contract of employment says.


Refusing holiday requests

Many employers will be juggling leave requests during school holidays as multiple employees want to take time off for family holidays or childcare.  Employers are able to refuse holiday requests when the needs of the business permits, where the employee/worker has failed to comply with holiday rules or where they do not give enough notice. However, they must be careful not to prevent employees from taking all of their entitled leave by the end of the holiday year. Not only would this risk the well-being of its employees, but it is a legal entitlement and there could be a risk of claims being pursued in the employment tribunal. Employers should always be aware of this when drafting their holiday procedures.   A better approach would be to discuss holiday plans with the whole team and agree an approach which is fair to everyone whilst still maintaining customer/client services. 

If an employer needs to refuse a holiday request, they should give the same amount of notice as the period of leave requested, plus one day. It is also important that employers treat all employees fairly and with consistency when managing multiple leave requests. Also think about whether a request has been made for religious purposes, as a refusal could also be potentially discriminatory.

Employers do have some control over when their employees taking leave, for example, this might be over the Christmas period when business is closed. Controlling when holiday is taken must be reasonable and made clear to the workforce.


“Use it or lose it”

As a rule of thumb, employers should encourage and give their employees the opportunity to take annual leave throughout the leave year and avoid employees saving up holiday till the end of the year. This makes the management of leave requests more stable and also ensures employees are taking regular rest breaks. 

Employers do not have to operate a carry-over scheme (save that special rules apply where an employee is on long term sick leave or on other family leave). If an employee has been given every opportunity to take their holiday but has not, then implementing a “use it or lose it” policy is justified. If limited opportunity is given, and taking holiday becomes too difficult for employees, the “use it or lose it” mantra becomes unjust, and employers won’t be able to rely on it and claims may be a consequence.

Whilst some employers operate a “buy back” scheme, it should be remembered that statutory minimum holiday should not be paid in lieu, save for on termination of employment.


Clear guidelines and policies

Employers should always lay down their holiday leave procedures clearly, either in the staff handbook or in contract documentation. Having clear and transparent guidelines will reduce the risk of disputes arising and or claims being pursued.

If you need any advice in relation to holiday entitlement, holiday pay calculations, including drafting contract documents or policies, then please contact Emma O’Connor at [email protected]. Alternatively, find out more information about our employment team and their expertise. 

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Employment team on

[email protected]
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