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Refusing holiday requests is easier than you think

It might be uncomfortable for you, but it’s not against the law: here’s how to refuse an annual leave request the right way.

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, May 31, 2018

3 min read

Your team is one of the reasons why your business is so successful.

We're not discrediting your efforts; we know you're the brains behind the operation. But your staff members work diligently. They often come in early and stay late to give their best every day.

As a result, they deserve a break. Yet, there may be occasions when you can’t have them take that break at the time they want to. You may even feel bad about declining their annual leave requests.

Fortunately, you don't have to. With our tips, you can take the awkwardness out of refusing a holiday request.

First off, is it legal to refuse employee holiday requests?

Yes, under the Working Time Regulations 1998 you have a right to refuse an employee’s holiday request.

But you must give your staff ‘counter-notice.’ In other words, you must give your staff the same amount of notice as the annual leave they requested.

For example, if your employee wants two weeks off, you need to give two weeks’ notice of cancellation.

Be careful, though. Refusing your staff’s annual leave request could stop them from using their full statutory holiday entitlement. And that is breaking the law.

So when is it OK to reject a holiday request?

When you have a valid business reason to, such as if there are too many people off already or it’s your busiest period.  

It goes without saying that if you can give an employee time off, you should. Your staff will return happy, rested and more productive after a break.

Well-rested employees are less likely to take sick leave or want to quit their jobs. There’s something in it for both of you.

How do I soften the blow?

The best way is to talk to your employee.

They’ll be disappointed that you’re not giving them the time off, but at least they’ll understand why.  

Your annual leave policy will help to explain why you declined their request. For example, if they didn’t give enough notice or someone’s already off—so it’s worth showing it to them.

Finish your chat by encouraging your employee to use their holidays at another time. You could even point out when’s a quiet month to request leave.  

If you don’t speak to your employee, they could jump to conclusions and think that you’ve singled them out.

Is there a better way to manage staff holidays?

Scribbling names down in a diary isn’t ideal for managing staff holidays. You can’t plan far ahead, track remaining annual leave, or share the schedule with employees.

But with BrightHR, managing staff holidays has never been easier.

Our staff holiday planner and booking system takes the stress and hassle out of staff holiday management.

Your employees can request a holiday and you can sign it off—or decline it—in seconds.

You don’t even have to be in work. Use our free iOS or Android app to react to requests—wherever you are.

And that’s not all.

BrightHR flags any holiday clashes for you. You’ll know who’s already off before you approve a holiday request.

Unlike cluttered diaries, you can also keep track of your employees’ remaining leave. This way, you can plan for busy periods.

Book a free demo of BrightHR to see how easy it makes managing staff holidays.

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