Managing Annual Leave over the Summer Months

Nóra Cashe

August 08 2023

First published: May 29th, 2014
Last updated: August 8th, 2023

Managing employee annual leave is one of the major administrative headaches that Irish employers face.

Annual leave management is particularly challenging during the summer months when all employees may seek to take holidays at the same time.

If this is a problem you find yourself dealing with each year, it’s best to take the following steps to make your business run more smoothly.

Develop an annual leave policy

Every employer should have a clear and unambiguous policy on annual leave entitlements.

This policy should be set out in writing in the employee handbook and confirm the procedures around requesting annual leave.

This helps you apply a consistent approach to annual leave management. The policy will also ensure that you have a written resource to point to if you need to explain to a disgruntled employee why their annual leave request was denied.

Annual leave request form

It’s a good idea to ask employees to either submit written or online annual leave request forms.

These forms typically ask the employee to confirm the dates they would like to take off as annual leave. You should also confirm in your annual leave policy how much notice you need in advance of an annual leave request. For example, a two week holiday might require one month’s advance notice.

This advance notice should allow you to make plans for the employee’s two-week absence.

First come/first served

There are different approaches to managing annual leave but one of the fairest methods is to operate a first come first served policy.

This is the most effective and fairest approach. Just remember to communicate your annual leave policy to all staff.

Once all employees are aware of the policy, employees will generally ensure to get their requests in as early as possible.

This will give you time to carry out the necessary workforce planning and deal with any employees who have requested annual leave on the same dates.

Minimum annual leave days per quarter

Another extremely useful policy used by business owners is to require employees to use a minimum number of days’ annual leave per quarter.

Remember, Ireland’s primary piece of employment law on working time, the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, clearly states that the times at which annual leave is granted to an employee shall be determined by his or her employer.

As the employer, you must be mindful of the employee’s need “to reconcile work and any family responsibilities” and a get enough “rest and recreation”.

The working time legislation does therefore allow employers to require employees to take a minimum amount of annual leave per quarter.

If you are relying on your right to require an employee to take annual leave however, you must take the above considerations around rest and recreation into account and provide the employee with one month’s notice of the dates they must take as annual leave.

While this policy will help ensure an even spread of annual leave days throughout the year and minimise the chances of all staff having excess annual leave at the end of the leave year, it’s best to exercise discretion where appropriate.


If you operate a policy that allows employees to carry over annual leave from the previous leave year, or if you have encountered any of the problems mentioned above, then it’s vital to communicate with your employees and to keep a record of your annual leave management procedures.

Failure to keep adequate records is the most common WRC claim made against employers.

Expert HR assistance with annual leave

To minimise any risks around annual leave in your business, talk to a Peninsula HR expert today.

They can advise on policies, appropriate online HR software and annual leave documentation that will keep your record keeping in line with Irish employment law.

Call today on 1800 719 216

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