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Holidays and annual leave

A European case confirms that employees are entitled to carry leave over to the next year

28 Feb 2019

A European case has recently confirmed that if an employee does not take their holiday before the end of the holiday year, they are entitled to carry this leave over to the next year, unless the employer can show that they have encouraged the employee to take their holiday and informed them in good time of the risk of losing that leave if it is not used.  

Under current UK law, employees are expected to take their holiday within the relevant leave year.  However, this recent case suggests that if employers have not taken action in good time to allow employees to use their annual leave, employees may have grounds to argue that they should be allowed to carry over this leave.

How much notice is required when booking leave at work?

The minimum legal requirements in this area provide that employees should give notice that is at least twice the length of the requested time off when making a request. Employees should also ensure that they follow their employer’s internal policy as this may require employees to give longer periods of notice.  

In light of the recent European decision mentioned above, employers should consider reminding staff to book holiday at least a few months before the end of leave year.  

If employees do make requests for annual leave at short notice, managers should deal with these requests reasonably and consider all of the circumstances. 

Can holiday be refused? 

Employers can refuse holiday requests and notice of a refusal should be the same number of calendar days as the length of the holiday that had been requested.  

Employers are entitled to refuse requests if too many staff have requested annual leave but competing holiday requests should be managed fairly and in line with objective criteria. This could include managing requests based on the date of the request or giving priority to staff who have worked at times when many people have taken holiday in previous years. Employers should be aware of the risk of potential discrimination when managing requests for leave for religious reasons.

Tips for employers and business owners

  • Have a clear holiday policy and ensure that staff are made aware of this 
  • Ensure that you encourage staff to book leave in good time before the end of the leave year
  • If you have additional procedures for booking leave around particular times of the year, remind employees about this a few months in advance
  • Treat staff consistently and fairly when considering holiday requests

Tips for employees

  • Check your holiday entitlement in your contract and your employer’s policy or procedure for requesting holiday
  • Many employers have special rules or procedures for booking holiday at particular times of the year, so it may be helpful to check with your manager if there are any such rules you should be aware of  
  • Give as much notice as possible when booking holiday