Written by Helen Goodwin | 1st June 2022

After two years of travel disruption due to Covid, it’s understandable that people are keen to jet off on their long-awaited holidays this summer.

For employers, this means a possible influx of holiday requests and employees asking to use days carried over from last year.

So how do you deal with these requests?

Have a clear annual leave policy

First things first, all of your employees need to be clear on the procedure for booking annual leave. You may have an automated system, an online form or calendar that sends requests to managers – whatever it is, employees should know how to use it and managers how to review them.

An annual leave policy makes it clear what employees are and aren’t entitled to. Having it in writing avoids issues down the line for both you and your people. Employees who work a 5-day week must receive at least 28 days paid annual leave a year as their statutory entitlement. This is the equivalent of 5.6 weeks of holiday. Part-time workers receive this pro-rata.

As well as entitlement, you can include periods of when leave either cannot or must be taken (e.g. you may not be able to approve leave for everyone during peak periods for your business and you may wish to close during the Christmas period for example),

Be sure to highlight in the policy if you have rules about how many people can be allowed off at one time, the minimum notice period for requesting holiday and if there are specific employees whose holidays cannot overlap. If everyone is aware of this, they are more likely to accept it.

Allocate leave on a first come, first served basis

Operating a first come, first served policy around holiday requests is usually the fairest way to manage a situation where multiple employees might want to take holiday at the same.

If you employ a lot of parents for example, you might see more requests for leave around the school summer holidays.

If you do choose to accept holidays on a first come, first served basis, make sure this is clearly indicated in your annual leave policy, so that all of your employees know they need to request leave dates as far in advance as possible.

Provide  a reason for declining holiday requests

Your employees should understand that it’s not guaranteed their holiday requests will always be granted.

If a request is turned down, make sure line managers know they have to give a clear, policy-backed explanation for their decision, e.g. there are too many people off already or they didn’t give enough notice.

The Working Time Regulations state that employees must give notice of their holiday request of twice the amount of time as the total length of holiday requested. So, a request for 5 days off work will require a notice period of at least 10 days.

Of course, you should take into consideration why a holiday request has been made at short notice and use your discretion for each employee.

Ensure that any decision made in relation to granting or declining holiday requests is done in accordance with contracts and your annual leave policy, to avoid any discriminatory issues.

To maintain good staff relationships and boost morale, we suggest you approve holiday requests as much as is reasonably possible.

Do people still have holidays carried over from 2020?

As a business you may have allowed employees to carry over unused holiday from 2020 and 2021 due to Covid.

In 2020 the Government introduced a law allowing employees to carry over up to 4 weeks’ statutory paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This applies to people who couldn’t take all their holiday because of furlough, illness or they had to continue working and could not take paid holiday.

Following the temporary change to carry-over of holiday, you can still allow employees to carry over any holiday entitlement over and above 4 weeks which might help take the pressure off 2022, where you may need to restrict leave due to staff shortages for example.

Employees may now have more holiday to take, but this doesn’t have to be all at once. You might have limits on how many consecutive days employees can take leave in your annual leave policy, such as 10 working days.

Wherever possible, we’d suggest encouraging any statutory holiday to be taken by the end of this year. If staff choose not to take it, you are not obliged to allow it to be carried over into 2023. If you have any questions about how to respond to these requests or the holiday your people are entitled to, get in touch with our team at [email protected].