Ask the Experts – March 2012

Q: One of my employees has booked a holiday at short notice without getting the necessary annual leave authorised in advance. We have a huge order to process that week and I cannot do without him. Am I ok to say no to his holiday request?

A: Claire Smith – associate solicitor in the Commercial Litigation department says… This is a difficult but quite common problem. In the absence of any provisions in your contract or handbook, the Working Time Regulations state that employees should give notice of at least twice the period that they want off, i.e. if he wants five days off he must notify you 10 days before the holiday is due to commence. An employer may refuse a request by serving a ‘counter-notice’ given at least as many days before as the period of leave that is being requested. Most employers have clear rules in their contract or handbook requiring employees to give a minimum period of notice and confirming that authorisation must be obtained in advance. If you do then you are on stronger grounds to object.

Your employee is likely to be aggrieved if he has to cancel a booked holiday but if you cannot accommodate the absence in another way, you have a genuine need for him to be there, and you follow the relevant procedures you should be fairly safe in rejecting it. If you decide to allow it you should make it clear to him that he must get authorisation first in the future, and bear in mind that you might be setting a precedent for other members of staff.

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