Employee Holidays – Questions and Answers

Q: An employee has asked for holiday all next week. Do I have to allow it?
A: No. First check the contract you made with your employee. This should specify the notice to be given. If not, the legal default position is two week’s notice for an holiday of one week. In the interests of good, motivated employees you would be wise to enquire why such short notice has arisen and also to consider what the effect might be on your business. It is entirely reasonable to balance these. For example, you may take a different view if the employee wants to visit a relative who has fallen ill suddenly as compared to someone who wants to take advantage of a last minute holiday deal. Even in the latter case you might allow it if the effect on your business is minimal. But the bottom line is that you can refuse it.
Indeed your contract of employment should state that employee holiday periods are subject to approval – which means they can be refused even if a request is made in good time. Another useful phrase, for your contract of employment, is that holidays must not be booked until approval is given.

Holiday taken without approval is a disciplinary matter.

Q: My employee has worked substantial overtime in the last few weeks, do I have to adjust his holiday pay rate accordingly?

A: Probably. If your employee works regular overtime then you will need to take this in to account in determining her holiday pay. Conversely if the overtime was a “one-off” and not reflective of her regular earnings you might discount them. The law is uncertain on this latter point and you could be challenged. A pragmatic approach may be to take the overtime into account by basing her holiday pay on her average earnings over the last 12 weeks. If the overtime was unusual then any precedent set will be minor in relation to the potential hassle – providing of course that there is no knock-on effect with other employees.

Q: I have an employee who is off-sick at present but who has asked to take holiday. Surely he cannot be off sick and take holiday?

A: In a sense that is correct, it has to be one or the other. There are two possibilities here.

The first is that the holiday will be recuperative. This is open to some interpretation, but if the employee says it will be recuperative or therapeutic it is doubtful whether it would be worth arguing about. In any case the next point over-rides this.

The second scenario is that the employee has run out of sick pay, or that sick pay is lower than holiday pay. The employee is entitled to choose to use their holiday entitlement instead of taking sick pay.

Advice given is for general guidance it is not intended as a substitute for specific advice.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

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