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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

2 min read

Your team are one of the reasons why your business is such a success.

Now, we’re not discrediting you (we know you’re the brains of the operation) but your staff come in early, work late and put their all in every day.

That’s why they deserve a break. And that’s why you feel bad declining their annual leave requests.

But you don’t have to. Take the awkwardness out of refusing a holiday request with our tips. 

First off, is it legal?

The law—specifically, the Working Time Regulations 1998—says that 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 length of 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, as 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.

And well-rested employees are less likely to take sick leave or want to quit their jobs—so 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 how much annual leave is left or share your diary with employees.

But you can with BrightHR.

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 with you, so 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 so 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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