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Save yourself a holiday headache – how to handle holiday entitlements and annual leave requests

As we enter summer holiday season, it’s important to ensure you have the correct processes in place to handle multiple holiday requests and that you have enough cover to keep your business running.

How much holiday?

One common question we’re asked on our member helpline is how much holiday is my employee entitled to? 

If employees work full time, the answer is fairly simple. All full-time employees have a statutory right to 28 days (5.6 weeks) annual leave, which can include bank holidays. Part-time workers are entitled to the same level of holiday pro rata based on the number of hours they work. However these are the legal minimum so you can choose to give more if you wish. 

Can I say no to a holiday request?

By law, your employees cannot demand specific dates for their holiday, and you do have the right to refuse an employee’s leave request if the period they are asking for doesn’t suit your businesses requirements.

For example, you might refuse a request because only a certain number of people from one department can be off at any time, or that certain functions must be covered.

In addition, you can ask members of staff to take their annual leave during predicted quiet periods, or for any other reason that suits the business and they cannot refuse to take their leave in these cases. However, this should be written into their terms and conditions of employment*.

Creating a holiday policy

Being clear on your employer obligations is just part of the story when it comes to managing holidays. The key is ensuring that you treat all requests fairly and consistently and this can be best achieved by ensuring you have a clear policy on leave requests that is communicated to all members of staff. 

This should include:

  • Minimum periods of notice when requesting leave to ensure suitable cover can be arranged
  • Use a holiday calendar which can ensure that the process is transparent and that members of staff can plan around each other where possible
  • Ensure that leave requests do not discriminate against employees  (for example if an employee wants to take off time in a busy period for a religious festival you may want to consider this request where you may not consider such requests for leisure purposes)
  • Ensuring that these policies are included in your terms and conditions of employment (Forum members can download sample terms and conditions here).

Holiday pay

In terms of holiday pay, employees start building up their paid leave entitlement as soon as they start work and this is not subject to a minimum period of employment.

As with holiday entitlement, part-time workers pay should be calculated pro rata based on the number of hours they work. If necessary you should also make sure that you are up to speed with the different ways in which pay needs to be calculated for people working variable hours or shift workers.

If one of your workers falls sick while on leave, things can start to get a bit more complicated and it’s best to seek professional advice on what to do next.

*Seek advice

As with all areas of employment law, it’s best to get expert advice before you act to make sure you’re on the right track. Forum members can call our helpline on 0845 130 1722 for help with holiday entitlement and varying contracts of employment. All advice is backed up by comprehensive legal protection insurance.

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