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Your employee has just asked if they can take holiday next week without warning, do you have to allow it?

Strictly speaking you do not need to allow it. The default position would be two weeks notice for one week’s holiday. Your contract with the employee or the practice in your employee handbook might say differently, and that could take precedence. However this should, in any case, also allow you to refuse the short-notice request.

If you fear the employee will take the holiday anyway then you should put your refusal (and perhaps some reasons for it) in writing to the employee. If he or she then takes the holiday, despite your refusal. you can implement the disciplinary procedure. Depending on the circumstances, you might want to consider gross misconduct and potential dismissal. However before doing that please read the rest of this blog!

A “reasonable” employer would enquire about the reason for the short-notice and take account of it in deciding whether to refuse the request or not. For example, if the request was to take advantage of some last-minute holiday deal you might still refuse it. Conversely if it were prompted by the sudden ill-health of a close relative then you might take a different view. It is also worth keeping in mind that many employees leave taking holiday to the end of the holiday year. It could be less disruptive to allow impromptu holiday now than face a request at the end of the holiday year.

The acceptance, or refusal, should be balanced with the needs of your business. As well as the service delivery needs of the business, that could include the motivation of the employee and the effects on his or her peers.

Summary dismissal for “unauthorised absence” could well be fair. But the question a Tribunal may ask is “Was dismissal within the band of responses that a reasonable employer might take?” The balance between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee may well be crucial in answering this question.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice