What would you do if two employees put in holiday requests for the same time?

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This edition of SA Law's #LetsTalkHR comic focuses on holiday requests. 


Two employees put in requests for holiday at the same time as each other, they both have important reasons for the request but it is your busiest time of year...what do you do?

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Dealing with competing holiday requests: 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?

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