• By Sam Cook
  • In
  • Posted Monday July 13, 2015

A common annual leave scenario... and how to handle it

Summer is a popular time for staff to book annual leave, and often it isn’t possible to accommodate everyone. However, declining holiday requests can lead to discontent among staff and a spike in unauthorised absence  - something we covered last month in ‘Don’t get burned by these common summer workplace issues...

As a result, we’ve put together a common annual leave scenario between a member of staff and a Practice Manager and pointers on how to deal with it in the correct manner.

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Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees have the right to request annual leave but unless the contract states otherwise, employers are not obliged to accept the requests at a particular time.

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Under the Equality Act direct discrimination is treating someone less favourably because of someone’s protected characteristic. Gender and having a child are protected characteristics, but she has not been declined for this reason.

Indirect discrimination may be where a policy or custom/practice may disadvantage a certain group of workers with a protected characteristic, but can be justified where it achieves a legitimate aim.

Although not required by the WTR, having a fair process based on business reasons will help protect from discrimination claims.speech3.png

The WTR do not allow employees to carry over remaining annual leave entitlements so practices can refuse this if they wish. As long as you are not discouraging or preventing employees from taking their annual leave – it is use it or lose it! (Expect for certain situations such as long term sickness or maternity leave).

The WTR also allow practices to state when an employee will take their holiday, as long as they give twice the amount of notice as the length of the annual leave.

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To ensure consistency within the practice and prevent resentment from employees, it is worth having a holiday request policy which sets out notice provisions and arrangements for requesting annual leave.

Where employees have children, they have the right to emergency leave and parental leave and may request it over the time they have booked annual leave. In regards to emergency leave or time off for family and dependants, this would not be suitable; employees are allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency. This would normally be a couple of unpaid days to arrange care. Knowing that a summer holiday is coming, months in advance would not meet this criteria.

In regards to parental leave, employees with children under 18 years old can request 18 weeks of unpaid leave. These must be blocks of full weeks and a maximum of four in a year. The employee would need to give 21 day’s notice for this type of leave and have at least one year’s service.

Normally parental leave requests should be accepted but an employer can postpone the leave for up to 6 months if they have a good business reason such as in this situation where other members of staff are already off and it would expose the practice to risk but not being adequately staffed.

If you suspect an employee of pulling a ‘sicky’ you may have grounds for a disciplinary. The declined holiday request and any supporting evidence would be needed. From our experience, evidence often comes in the form of family pictures at a theme park shared on social media!

For specific queries regarding any of the HR issues covered in this article FPM Members can contact advice@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk where you question will be treated in confidence and will normally be answered (by email) within 2 working days of submission. 

© First Practice Management, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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