Last-minute holiday requests likely during heatwave

Bournemouth beach in May. Photo: Lee Earle / Shutterstock

HR teams may find themselves experiencing an influx of last-minute requests for annual leave this week, with temperatures set to reach 34 degrees.

According to software provider BrightHR, there was a 29% uplift in annual leave requests made via its platform on Monday (22 June), compared with a week earlier.

And more requests are likely to come in today; BrightHR reported that the number of requests made yesterday and this morning (20,416) was 17% higher than those received across the same two days in May (17,425).

BrightHR CEO Alan Price said: “Like most business leaders, you probably see a spike in holiday requests anytime we approach a heatwave.

“While your employees’ holiday plans might be on hold, it’s still important for them to take time away from work. Annual leave gives your people downtime to refresh and recover, so you should encourage employees to take time out from work during lockdown.”

Whether employees can take holiday on a whim depends on what their employment contract says, Tom Moyes, a partner in the employment team at Blacks Solicitors, told Personnel Today.

“An employer will often stipulate in a contract of employment how many days’ prior notice is required to take holiday. Alternatively it may be stated in the staff handbook. In absence of these provisions both parties will need to turn to the Working Time Regulations [which] would also apply in conjunction with the contractual rules,” he said.

“Under regulation 15 of the Working Time Regulations, employees must give notice to their employer to take holiday and employers must give notice to employees if they want to require them to take annual leave. In either case, the notice period must be at least twice the period of annual leave being requested by the employee or being required to be taken by the employer. For example, 10 days’ notice for five days holiday.”

Employers also have reasonable grounds to refuse a leave request if it is not in the needs of the business, for example if it will leave them short-staffed. However, organisations may open themselves up to claims of constructive dismissal if they repeatedly deny an employee the opportunity to take annual leave.

Moyes said employers might require staff to take some of their holiday entitlement, as many would have taken few days off while the coronavirus lockdown has been in place.

“I would recommend that employers revisit their holiday policies at the present time and make the rules very clear in respect of holidays in the current pandemic. This way there will greater employee engagement and fewer shocks around decisions on holidays and cancellation,” he said.

Stephen Ravenscroft, head of employment at law firm Memery Crystal, said: “In many cases employers will welcome requests from employees to use annual leave at the moment, even at short notice to enjoy the sunshine, given that the use of holiday entitlement over the past few months has been limited by lockdown restrictions, sickness absence and furlough leave.”

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