As an employer am I entitled to refuse a last minute holiday request?

Statutory right to time off

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), all UK workers who work five days a week have a statutory right to at least 28 days paid holiday per annum, with an equivalent pro-rated entitlement for part-time workers. Employers are allowed to count paid bank holidays as part of this entitlement. Some companies may provide employees with more than this allocation depending on company policy.

Requesting time off

If an employee wishes to use some of their annual holiday leave, they must make a proper request to their employer within the specified notice period.

An employee who requests statutory holiday from their employer must give notice according to one of the following:

  • double the length of their holiday;
  • the period prescribed by their employment contract.

Right to refuse

An employer has the right to refuse a leave request but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested; for example two weeks’ notice if the leave asked for was two weeks.

Where an employee fails to give the required notice to their employer the employer is under no obligation to allow them to take the holiday. An employer therefore has the right to reject last minute holiday requests from an employee.

Whether an employer wishes to do this or not is purely at their discretion. If it is an extremely busy time for the company then it may be in the interests of the employer to stop their employee taking this time off. However, in the interests of company morale – especially if the request is made during a quiet time – it may be prudent for the employer to allow their employee to take this time off.

When leave can and can’t be taken

Employers are entitled to tell their staff to take leave, for example bank holidays or Christmas. They are also allowed to dictate when leave cannot be taken, for example at certain busy industry periods.

The employment contract may outline the rules for this, or it may be what normally happens in the workplace. The notice period for this is at least twice as long as the leave they want their staff to take.

Untaken holiday

Many employees will not use their entire allocation of holidays throughout the year and will have a number of days built up at the end of the yearly allocation.

The employment contract will usually stipulate says how many days’ leave an employee can carry over into the next year; generally, if a worker gets 28 days’ leave, they can carry over up to a maximum of eight days. If a worker gets more than 28 days’ leave, their employer may allow them to carry over any additional untaken leave.

If a worker can’t take all of their leave entitlement because they’re already on a different type of leave (eg, sick, maternity or parental leave), they can carry over some or all of the untaken leave into the next leave year.

A worker must be allowed to carry over up to 20 of their 28 days’ leave entitlement if they were unable to take annual leave because they were off sick.

Part leave days

Some workers may be entitled to a part leave day – eg, if they’re part-time or have a half day’s leave to take. How a part-day is taken is at the discretion of the employer.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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