IP Writes: I have an employee who has recently joined my company. During the final interview I asked if they had any holidays booked and they said no. However, they now claim that they have a holiday booked for the end of the month. Do I have to honour this?

There is no legal requirement for employers to honour pre booked holidays at the start of employment, though many exercise their discretion and choose to agree holidays when these are discussed at the interview stage. During the first year of employment, employers can rely on the Working Time Regulations 1998 to use an accrual system so that holidays accrue at the rate of 1/12th of the employee’s annual entitlement and they can only take what they have accrued. Similarly, if the employee has started part way through a leave year then they will only be entitled to a pro rata amount of the annual leave entitlement.

When considering whether to honour the booked holiday you should consider the outcome of the two options. If the holiday is not approved this could cause bad feeling with the employee at the start of their employment and potentially lead to a failure to retain the employee. Alternatively, if the holiday is honoured this might result in setting an expectation that employees can make travel arrangements before having their holiday requests approved, something most businesses try to discourage.

Additionally there are other various matters to consider such as how long the planned holiday is for, whether other members of the employee’s team are already on holiday, the purpose of the holiday, for example, if you have been informed that the purpose for the holiday is due to religion and you have approved this for other employees and if the new employee will miss any planned events such as training or induction sessions.

As you have been informed of the holiday some time in advance, consider whether there is adequate time to go through the standard company holiday procedure. Usually employees have to give twice as much notice of the holiday as the amount of leave required, and then the request can be approved or declined in line with the normal process. This will also be a good time to make the employee aware of the holiday procedure and to remind them that they should not be making arrangements until their holiday requests have been approved.