Mythbuster: You have to accept an employee’s holiday request if they’ve already booked their flights

Read on to find out whether this is true.

BrightHR Team

Imagine this. Your employee comes in looking giddy and slaps down an absence request form on your desk.

She’s booked last-minute flights to Barcelona over August bank holiday weekend and wants to know if she can have the 23rd August off.

With four people already booked off on that Friday, you know you can’t afford to have a fifth. But before you fill out your decision, you second-guess yourself…

Do you have to accept a holiday request if your employee’s already booked their flights? Let’s find out.  

It all depends on your policy

Your annual leave policy breaks down the rules for booking staff holidays. So it’s the first document you should check in a situation like this.

If your policy tells staff not to book flights before agreeing annual leave with you first, then you’re under no obligation to accept any requests that break this rule.  

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and help out your staff.  

Do what you can

You don’t want to be the reason why your employee can’t go away, especially if they’re a good worker. So see what you can do for them.

You could give them the option of taking unpaid leave or swapping their shift with a co-worker. But be careful about bending the rules too much.

Because whatever you do for them, the next employee will want the same. And if you don’t treat them both equally, you could leave yourself open to claims of discrimination.

Put your rejection in writing

If you can’t let your employee have the time off, write to them and explain why.

Tell them what will happen if they take unauthorised leave and make it clear that you could dock their pay or take disciplinary action.

You should also keep a copy of this letter in case you need to use it as evidence later on.

Don’t jump to conclusions if your employee calls in sick

Yes, it looks suspicious but it might be genuine. So follow your normal sickness procedure and keep an eye on how long your employee’s off sick.

If you do suspect that they’re pulling a sickie, you need to establish the facts first. Without any reasonable belief or evidence to back up your claims, it’s going to be difficult to take any fair action.

And if they don’t turn up at all…

Get in contact with your employee to find out why. If they give you a poor excuse or don’t pick up the phone at all, you could take disciplinary action.

But before you do, call BrightAdvice. Our HR experts will talk you through your next steps and make sure you’ve followed proper disciplinary procedures before doing anything drastic.

Call now on 0800 783 2806.