Dealing with competing holiday requests over Christmas
At Christmas many employees will want to take time off to spend with friends and family. But businesses can suffer as a result, particularly those in retail and leisure who may need additional resources. So how do you deal with multiple requests for holiday over Christmas without damaging staff morale and, potentially, your profits?
The law and potential pitfalls
The legal position is fairly clear: employers can restrict when employees take holiday and can also stipulate when employees should take leave. Broadly, both employers and employees must give notice equal to twice the length of the leave requested. If an employer refuses a request they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested. So an employee wanting to take two weeks off should give four weeks’ notice; the employer must give two weeks’ notice if they wish to refuse the request.
However, it’s important to bear in mind the implied duty of trust and confidence; employers should act reasonably and not turn down requests arbitrarily.
Consistency is also important. If employees request time off for religious or childcare reasons refusing their request could potentially amount to indirect discrimination. To avoid such a claim succeeding employers must show that the refusal was justified. Smooth running of the business is a potential legitimate aim, but the refusal needs to be proportionate in the circumstances. Have alternatives been considered?
There are also less obvious consequences of refusing requests: employees may call in sick on the days in question, leaving you short-staffed (and although this is a potential disciplinary offence it may be difficult to prove they were fit for work). Dissatisfied employees’ productivity is bound to drop, and workplace malaise can set in.
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