The 12 Employment Law Questions of Christmas: Day 9

On the ninth day of Christmas, HR was asked with fear, “Do we have to say yes to all holiday requests during this festive time of year?”

And HR replied….No!

A common problem around the festive period is that many employees want to take the same days as annual leave so that they can enjoy time off with their loved ones. However, employers are not obliged to accept all annual leave requests over the Christmas period and, in many cases, this would not be operationally possible to accommodate anyway. Employers should make it clear in advance that annual leave can be limited during this time and clearly set out in its contracts and policies that holiday is subject to prior approval from line managers.

Further difficulty comes when considering which employees’ leave requests will be approved, as well as agreeing the basis upon which this decision will be made. In cases where an employer does not operate a business-wide Christmas shut down, a ‘first come first served’ system is often implemented. Although this can be a good starting point, it is not always the perfect solution and could be deemed to be unfair to new starters and employees returning from sick leave or maternity leave who have not had a chance to get their requests in early enough. Not to mention that Christian employees might feel particularly aggrieved if they are denied leave during the religious holidays.

Another approach employers could operate is an annual rota system, tracking who has been able to take annual leave in previous years and allocating the leave to others so that it isn’t always the same people getting time off over Christmas. However, this method has its own flaws – particularly if staff turnover is high and employees do not remain in the business for multiple festive periods or long enough to see the benefits the rota system brings.

Overall, employers should seek to achieve a balance that is fair to all by factoring in business needs against the number of competing requests received at this time of year.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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