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Do 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...

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Monday, Feb 26, 2024

3 min read

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 the bank holiday weekend. She wants to know if she can have the Tuesday off after the bank holiday Monday.

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

Do you have to accept a holiday request if your employees 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 you have a policy that requires staff to get approval for annual leave before booking flights. You are not obligated to approve requests that violate this policy.

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 the consequences of taking unauthorised leave. 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.

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 the employee is off sick.

If you do suspect that they’re pulling a sickie, you need to establish the facts first. If you can't provide evidence or a good reason, it will be hard to act fairly.

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, it's advisable to talk with one of our HR expert who will talk you through your next steps. Making sure you’ve followed proper disciplinary procedures before doing anything drastic.

Not a BrigthHR customer? Discover the advantages of BrightAdvice.

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