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Members Newsletter August 2019

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An Employer’s Obligation to Manage Holiday Requests Fairly

It is increasingly squarely the responsibility of the employer to ensure that employees take their statutory holiday allowance.  It can also have a detrimental effect on workplace morale to be perceived as unreasonably refusing annual leave requests.  There are of course issues  when during busy periods seemingly everyone wants to go on holiday at the same time.  There is a balancing exercise to be struck to remain fair and keep employees happy.

The best place to start is to ensure that there are in place bespoke clauses in the holiday policy.  Getting off on the right foot with an established, understood and identifiable approach to annual leave management and ensuring restrictions on annual leave are transparent is key.  As part and parcel of this it is well worth seriously considering:

  • Making it plain that annual leave request will be dealt with and thereafter granted on a first come, first served basis.
  • Having a set limit on the number of employees who can take leave from any one department at the same time to ensure adequate cover is in place.
  • If there are certain times when things are particularly busy e.g. around the end of the financial year or Christmas, making it plain that during these periods leave will not be granted.
  • If there is a company wide shut-down at any point in the year which means that all employees need to save some leave, it makes sense to include this in the policy so that employees are fully aware of this.
  • Setting limits around the length of time off employees can take off in any given block e.g. 2 weeks.

There should also be a sound business rationale behind any annual leave restrictions as annual leave at its core is viewed by Courts and Employment Tribunals as a health and safety measure and not just a perk of a job.  That said, overly restrictive holiday policies will not serve to assist with employee retention.

It is also prudent to review holiday bookings at regular intervals throughout the year.  An advantage is that this should identify if too many staff are saving their allowance until the end of the year.  If this is noted  then it is sensible to remind staff about how many days they have left and encourage them to book them as far in advance as possible to enable the business to plan ahead.  A proactive approach should help to keep annual leave bookings more evenly spread throughout the year and avoid too many clashing requests at the year-end.

It is important to be aware that a blanket ban on any request to take an extended period of holiday does carry with it a potential risk of indirect discrimination even if there is no intention to do so.  For instance, if an employee has family far away overseas and he or she is keen to spend as much time as possible with them on a rare opportunity to do so, the request should be fully reviewed to properly assess whether allowing an extended period of leave would in actuality be viable for the business.

It is also advisable to get help with holiday management and utilise a HR Software which streamlines the request and approval process. This will also help to track clashing requests and employees who are not using up their annual leave allowance.

Should you wish to arrange a free demonstration of our HR software please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 837 6844 or via email [email protected].

Alan Lewis, Employment Specialist at Linder Myers Solicitors advises:-

 “Would it be a required reasonable adjustment to pay protect an Employee who was on restricted / light duties?”. 

Employers are under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments where it is known (or ought reasonably to be known) that a person has a disability.  Failure in this duty amounts to discrimination as per s20 Equality Act 2010.

The caselaw as it stands is that it will not be an “everyday event” for an employer to provide long-term pay protection if it becomes necessary to modify or change an employee’s job role.  But, pay protection when a disabled employee is redeployed should not be discounted.  As in every case, the reasonableness of the adjustments must be assessed on an individual basis taking account factors such as the costs of making the adjustment and the resources available to the employer.

A significant factor in the length of time the pay protection is put in place for can be if the employer had led the employee to believe that the arrangement would be long-term or indefinite.  It is therefore highly advisable to record the adjustment in writing and to stress to the employee the anticipated timescale this will prevail for.

Finally, it would not be a defence likely to succeed to argue that such pay protection could not be enacted due to the chance of discontent from other employees.  The impact (or anticipated impact) on other employees of an adjustment is not generally a factor that should be taken into account when determining reasonableness.  That said, wider implications on the workforce as a whole may be considered.

If you require further advice on this please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 837 6807 or email us on [email protected].

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