The holiday season is upon us and workers have dreams of lying on beaches and splashing in the sea. As an employer you might have other ideas. You might need your staff in the workplace. This has been the case for those in the financial sector. Some banks have put measures in place to ensure there are enough staff to deal with enquiries and issues arising from the Brexit vote.
Can employers restrict the taking of holidays?
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), either the employer or worker can give notice of taking statutory holiday. A written agreement can vary or exclude these provisions.
Under the WTR, the notice a worker needs to give must be at least twice the period of leave that they are requesting. This means if the worker wants to take five days’ leave, they must give at least 10 calendar days’ notice.
An employer may refuse a worker’s holiday request by serving a counter-notice. The employer must give the notice at least as many calendar days before the date on which the leave is due to start as the number of days which the employer is refusing. This means if the worker has requested six days’ leave and the employer wishes to refuse five days of the request, it must give notice at least five calendar days before the date on which the leave was due to start.
Employers need to ensure that they are not restricting a worker from taking their entitlement due under the Working Time Directive (WTD). This amounts to four weeks’ minimum entitlement (the WTR provide for 5.6 weeks’ leave in total). Except in some limited circumstances (such as where long-term sick leave or family-related leave is taken), workers may only take WTD leave in the leave year to which it relates, or else it is lost. A worker may, subject to their terms and conditions, be able to carry over any additional WTR leave or other leave accrued under their contract, to the next leave year.
While major UK banks and foreign banks have not put in place outright bans on taking annual leave, they have admitted to putting in place “appropriate measures” to ensure they have sufficient numbers of staff working. Having staffing resources in place will be a consideration for other sectors too.