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Allocating Employees Holidays

The importance of ensuring an employer keeps an eye on employees holiday entitlement is imperative to ensure the smooth running of a business. Depending on the size of the business this should be reviewed on a monthly or at the least a quarterly basis.
Under a lot of contracts of employments if a employee does not use their holiday entitlement within the year then they will lose it. At the same time an employer cannot afford to have all their staff absent on holiday leave at the same time and therefore getting a fair balance is imperative.
Employees have the right to a minimum of 5.6 working weeks of annual leave per annum, however and most crucially they do not have the automatic entitlement to choose when they must take the time off.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 stipulates that employers always have the right to allocate holiday leave to an employee. If needed the employer can serve a notice on an employee stipulating that the employee is required to take their holiday on a specified date. In order for this to be effective the employer must give the employer reasonable notice. The next question that is often asked by an employer is what constitutes “reasonable notice.” The legislation states that the notice period issued by an employer should be double the length of the annual leave that the employer wishes the employee to have, by way of example if the employer is asking their employee to take 7 days holiday they need to issue 14 days notice to the employee.
It is highly recommended that provisions for holiday leave are dealt with in the contract of employment, the advantage that this gives an employer is that it allows them to keep control and plan for busy periods of time. It is possible that an employer can state longer periods of notice for holiday leave above and beyond the statutory requirements, however, an employer should be conscious of the practicalities of this and be sympathetic to emergency situations. There could be a scenario where an employer is only able to provide shorter notice than their contract of employment provides and this does not mean that the employer can automatically deny such a request as to do so may be deemed to be “unreasonable.” However, under normal circumstances if the employee does not comply with their notice requirements then an employer should honour such a request.
An alternative approach adopted by some employers is to stipulate when an employee cannot take time off, for example, at an extremely busy time for the business such as Christmas or Easter etc. If such a term is clearly stipulated in the contract of employment then any such holiday requests can be justifiably refused. However, the caveat to this is where such a refusal would result in the employee losing the opportunity to take such holidays at a later point in the year and they would as a result lose their holiday entitlement.
The above blog sets out the importance of not only dealing with holiday requests but also the importance of ensuring all employees have a fair contract of employment to avoid any unnecessary disputes and unhappy employees. As a rule of thumb all parties should try and give as much notice as possible to avoid any dispute with the Regulations.