Holiday periods can be a busy time for annual leave requests. As an employer, you should aim to balance everyone’s needs and requests fairly, reasonably and equitably.

What does current employment law say about when holidays can be taken?

According to government guidelines, employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year (this is known as statutory entitlement), and part-time workers are entitled to the same amount of holiday (pro rota) as full-time colleagues.

Employees have the right to statutory annual leave, but as an employer, you can determine when leave can or cannot be taken. Some organisations have shutdowns when employees have to take leave, others may request people not take leave at certain times of the year during busy periods.

So first of all, it’s important to remember that employees are not entitled to have the days off that they want. Their requests must suit your business needs.

So how do you manage this?

You should have in place a clear process to manage holiday requests so that it feels fair to all staff and does not put employees with protected characteristics at risk of direct or indirect discrimination.

For busy trading or holiday times where not all staff can be granted their first choice of dates, you could select employees for time off by taking turns over different years, drawing names out of a hat or dividing up the available days amongst those making requests.

Consider what you did last year. If it worked and everyone on the whole was happy, there is no reason to move away from the same procedure.  If you did have issues (such as being short staffed), it is important to attempt to get it right this year. Some people may be glad to work over the summer period, allowing days off later in the year for the festive period. If you operate a first come first served system, this will prejudice the less organised members of staff, which while not unlawful, is not conducive to good employment relations.

It would be helpful to identify those employees who want the time off well in advance, then you can plan and identify if you need any further resources.  Communicate and consult to establish what everyone’s needs are – employees will appreciate that you are considering their wishes and not imposing arbitrary decisions on them.

You can also put in place an annual leave procedure, which sets out how annual leave should be booked and what will happen if employees do not follow the procedure, as well as how requests for annual leave are granted – then the employees know that the process for annual leave is being managed fairly and consistently.

What can you do to support your employees?

It can be difficult for parents particularly to arrange sufficient cover during the school summer holidays. You can send a clear message that you value your employees by acting fairly and being accommodating to enable parents to strike the balance between their jobs and their parental responsibilities.

You should always bear in mind that if trained and experienced employees can’t achieve the flexibility they are seeking, they may find employment with a competitor that does offer flexibility. Being flexible and accommodating individual employee needs, in line with the needs of the business ultimately is a tool to attract and retain good employees.

In addition to granting holiday requests when possible, you can also offer unpaid time off work via a statutory parental leave request (employees are entitled to up to 18 weeks unpaid leave to look after their child’s welfare) or consider alternate working arrangements via a statutory flexible working request, which is a formal process and should be considered in line with the needs of the business.

You could also offer remote working as an alternative if possible.

If you need support with managing holidays in your business, get in touch!


T: 0151 728 7717


Twitter: @LiverpoolHR