Holiday season – questions frequently asked by employers

With holiday season in full swing, here are a few common questions and answers to help you get through the season without getting (sun) burned.

How much notice should an employee provide to take holiday?

The Working Time Regulations provide for a period of notice that is twice the length of the holiday requested. For example, if an employee wishes to take two weeks leave, they should make their request no less than four weeks in advance. However, you may provide different notice requirements in your annual leave policy and sometimes where it is possible to afford employees more flexibility that good will can be extended.

As a manager, do I have to allow all holiday requests I receive?

No, requests are just that and it is for the manager to decide whether the request can be authorised or not. This decision will be based on factors such as operational requirements, who is already booked off at the same time and whether a period of ‘holiday exclusion’ is in operation.

If you do decline the request, you should do so as quickly as possible and in any case the employee should be notified of the decision by providing notice equivalent to the period of leave requested. In the example above, the employer would be required to give two weeks’ notice. There is no requirement to provide a reason for declining holiday, although it is best practice to do so and recommended so your employee understands the business reasons behind your decision.

Managers should be careful not to unreasonably decline a request and decisions should be given promptly. Mangers should also take care not to unreasonably prevent an individual from taking their entitlement to annual leave.

Can I prevent employees taking holidays during peak periods?

Yes, this is common within organisations who have peak periods. The obvious example is a retail store confirming that no holiday may be taken during December. You should make this clear in your contract of employment and employment policies so that there are no surprises.

If, as in this case, you are preventing holidays being taken in December and your holiday year also ends in December, you will need to ensure that remaining holiday entitlements are monitored well in advance. 

How is holiday pay calculated?

Holiday pay calculations depend on the make-up of the employee’s normal pay. If the pay would normally include variable elements, such as shift pay and/or commission, this may need to be factored into pay calculations. The latest information on calculating holiday pay is here.

How do I calculate holiday for part time employees?

Under the Working Time Regulations, all employees are entitled to the equivalent of 5.6 weeks holiday, inclusive of bank holidays. This is the same for part time employees. For example, if an employee works three days per week, their entitlement would be 5.6 weeks x 3 to provide their annual entitlement in days. 

What can I do if an employee’s holiday request is declined then they don’t turn up for work?

The absence would be recorded as unauthorised leave and may result in disciplinary action being taken. You would need to investigate the reason for the employee not coming to work and make decisions based on a reasonable belief on the basis of the information gained during that investigation. 

For more assistance with holiday entitlement and holiday pay employers can review our HR toolkit available to all RSM clients or contact Kerri Constable or Laura Cerasale.