How to say “no” to holiday requests this summer


As the temperature rises, so do the holiday requests, but you can’t grant them all or you’ll end up seriously understaffed. In this article, the MIA’s trusted Business helpline Partner, Croner, give some important tips on how to manage annual leave in your business this summer…

Getting holiday leave right

Managing annual leave is going to be a big challenge for you over the next two months, and having all of your employees off work at the same time is not an option.

So it’s vital you understand how to manage annual leave in your business this summer. Here’s how…

Is it legal to say, “No”?

In a word, yes. The Working Time Regulations 1998 state that an employer has the right to refuse an employee’s holiday request.

But it’s not that straightforward.

Firstly, while you can refuse holiday requests, you shouldn’t do it without a reason. As long as an employee has followed the correct procedure, has enough leave to take, and the business is sufficiently staffed, then it’s good practice to grant their holiday request—or explain why you’re unable to do so.

Secondly, you need to make sure that you’re dealing with holiday leave openly, fairly, and in line with employment law. Follow the rules and you’ll be fine, but getting it wrong could put your business at risk (we’ll get to that later).

So, what should you do?

Establish clear policies

Put annual leave policies in place, such as limiting the number of people who can book annual leave at any one time or during periods of increased demand in the business.

It can also help to put a first-come, first-served system in place. It’s a straightforward approach, but one that works. If an employee requests to book a holiday at a time when other employees have already booked time off, it’s clear why you can’t grant their request.

Include annual leave in employee contracts

Make sure staff know where they stand before holiday season comes around. Contracts should include:

  • How much holiday allowance staff get
  • Whether you pay staff extra for working certain days
  • How staff can book time off
  • How much notice you require
  • What days staff need to reserve holiday for
  • Whether they can carry over leave

If you don’t have holiday policies in place already, don’t worry. Croner helps you write employee contracts and annual leave policies to protect your business.

Don’t give anyone priority

Treating some workers’ requests as more important than others could lead to an employee making a discrimination claim against you.

Of course, no one ever thinks they’d discriminate against anybody. But accidental discrimination happens more than you might think. Let us explain…

You might feel it’s fair to grant annual leave to people who celebrate religious holidays. But prioritising holidays based on employees’ beliefs could lead to accusations of discrimination.

Similarly, you might also think it makes sense to allow parents to take time off during the six-week school holidays. But favouring parents’ holiday requests could mean staff without children feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Remember to treat all holiday requests equally.

A discrimination claim could not only damage your reputation, but could force your business to pay compensation. And you can’t afford to take that risk.

Offer other benefits

You might not be able to grant all holiday requests, but there are other ways to keep staff management running smoothly through the summer months.

You could offer flexible working hours, staff benefits, reward and recognition programmes, or even summer social events. Sure, they’re not holidays—but people place a lot of stock in company culture, so making sure your staff feel valued is a must.

Such small gestures can mean a big boost to employee morale. One survey found that employee happiness actually increased productivity by 12%, so you need a happy workforce for your business to boom.

As part of your membership with the MIA you can speak to a Croner expert for help with any of the above issues and get free in-depth, tailored advice. Email or call 01403 800500 for the exclusive Business Support Helpline scheme number.