Holidays are supposed to be a way for people to unwind and forget the stresses of work.  However, the approval of holiday requests can create a lot of tension in the workplace.  As an employer it can be difficult to balance the needs of your employees with the needs of the business. Also, it is difficult to ensure that everyone feels that they are being treated fairly when decisions are made in deciding who can take leave during the popular times.  This can be made even harder by the fact that while employees say that they want to be treated fairly, what they actually want is to be able to take leave whenever they choose.

Although all employees have the same holiday entitlement they will have different requirements and priorities affecting when they wish to take that leave.  An employer has to juggle those different requests whilst making sure that all work is completed.

The difficulty comes when more employees want to take holiday off at a particular time than the company can maintain.  Some times of year are more popular than others and there can be strong reasons for employees needing time off at particular times.

Employees with children are often restricted by term times and their child minders.  Other employees might need leave for religious reasons, the dates of which they cannot control.  Employees may be restricted by the availability of their partner, other family members or friends.  Additionally there could be a specific event that leave is wished for that is on a fixed date.

It is important to give everyone a fair chance at taking leave at the time they want and ensure that there is no appearance of preferential treatment, so employers need to monitor requests.  For example, a company may set out the number of employees who can take leave around the busy summer weeks.  If it is known that some people will have their requests refused but the same person or people have their request granted each year then this is likely to be perceived as favouritism.

Set out the popular times of leave to staff so that they know which dates are likely to be more problematic.  Ask staff to consider when making requests if they can take leave at the less popular times if they have fewer restrictions but do not refuse requests on that basis.  Most companies operate a system based on the timing of the requests so that the people who ask for the leave first are the ones that get it.

When a request comes in for leave for a time that is already fully booked up it should not be automatically rejected.  Consider the reason for the request, why it has been made at that specific time and if it could have been made earlier when deciding if it is possible to accommodate it.  Employers also need to monitor sickness absence to ensure that it isn’t being used by employees to extend holidays or take them when they have been previously refused.

For more advice on how to deal with the influx on holiday requests you are likely to receive during the up and coming summer months, please contact our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.