Can employers allocate annual leave to their employees?

  • Leave and Absence
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Read our article: 'Can employers allocate annual leave to their employees?'. Contact us today for more information about our Employment Law, Health & Safety, and HR services.

Employees have the right to a minimum of 5.6 working weeks of annual leave per year, but they do not have the explicit right to choose when to actually take this time off. If an employee wishes to make a holiday request they must give you notice. This notice can be specified in the contract of employment or a policy and if the employee does not comply with it, you may refuse to grant the leave. If there is no contractual agreement, then employees should give you twice as much notice as the length of period requested. It is always advisable for notice periods for annual leave requests in employment documentation so that you can keep some control and to help you plan. You can stipulate longer notice periods in your employee documentation, however, you should consider the practicalities of this. There may be emergency situations where an employee needs a shorter notice holiday than your rules allow and denying the request on this basis may not be reasonable. Employers always have the right to allocate holiday to an employee, and the Working Time Regulations 1998 set out the rules on this. An employer can serve notice to an employee that they are to take holiday on particular days provided that the correct notice is given. In this circumstance, the correct notice is twice the length of the annual leave to be enforced. For example, if you want an employee to take 5 days off, you need to give them 10 days’ notice. Alternatively to specifying when employees must take their annual leave, you can specify a time period during which they cannot take time off. This can be a particularly busy period for your business which you have identified, such as the run-up to Christmas or the summer period. As long as staff are aware that you will not be able to approve any requests within the particular period, they can be refused. However, this may not be possible towards the end of the leave year if a block on annual leave means an employee will not be able to take all of their leave entitlement for that year. This is why it is important to keep an eye on the amount of leave all employees have left at regular intervals during the year, reminding them perhaps once or twice in the second half of the leave year of how much they have left and that they should book it or they will lose it. If you intend to set a period during which no annual leave can be taken, you should give as much notice as possible to avoid problems regardless of the minimum notice period set by the Regulations.  


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

Related articles

  • a jar of coins labelled holiday


    Rolled up holiday pay set to return: what exactly is it?

    Rolled up holiday pay has been unlawful since 2006 but is set to make a comeback. Those who begun their careers in HR or payroll before then will need to dust off the old guidance and re-familiarise.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Leave and Absence
  • Three office workers sat around a table.


    Should you hire someone who’s unfriendly in the interview?

    We often expect candidates to be smiley, friendly, and confident in their interview. But here’s why that’s not always the right way to think about it…

    Alan PriceChief Operations Officer
    • Recruitment
  • Two people at a desk reviewing financial documents


    The bank holiday rush: how to manage last minute leave requests

    If your staff are trying to maximise their time off around bank holidays, it could put you in a tricky spot. Read more to learn how to navigate clashing holiday requests.

    James PottsLegal Services Director
    • Leave and Absence
Back to resource hub

Try Peninsula for free today

See for yourself why Peninsula is the UK’s favourite HR and health & safety provider. Tap below to unlock free advice, policies, e-learning, and more.

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.