Employment Law for Pre-Booked Holidays

  • Leave and Absence
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Pre-booked holiday time is a complex topic - what if your new employee has some lengthy holiday time planned before starting? This guide explains your options.

You might use a job interview, or even job application process, to ask whether potential employees have any pre-booked holidays. It’s a good idea to ask.

If the person is successful, you can make plans for their upcoming holidays before they’ve even worked their first day.

But the pre-booked holidays topic is a bit more complex than just that. So, in this guide, we’ll explain where you stand with pre-booked holidays. For more advice, contact us today for expert advice.

Do employers have to honour holidays booked in advance?

There’s no legal requirement for you to honour holidays booked before employment starts. However, if you can meet staffing needs while approving the holiday, it’s a good idea to allow them. It creates a good impression of the business.

Consider it from the perspective of your new employee. If your first act as an employer is to inform them they can’t take their pre-booked holiday, this can create a negative relationship from day one.

How should you process holiday requests for a new employee?

If you know the holiday time well in advance, there may also be time for them to go through the normal company procedure to give notice of their holiday request.

Do remember that your employee might not inform you they have a pre-booked holiday at interview. Or they may make new plans before they start, and then put in a holiday request within a short period of their start.

Where do your employees stand on annual leave entitlement there?

Well, during the first year of employment, you can operate an accrual system. This accrual system means an employee accrues holiday at a rate of 1/12th of their yearly entitlement. And they can only take what they’ve accumulated. For example, if by the end of their second month they’ve only accrued 4.6 days of their 28-day annual holiday entitlement, they’ll only be able to take this amount of time off. But before saying no to pre-booked holiday requests, consider the following:

  • How long the holiday is for.
  • The number of team members who are on holiday during this period.
  • The purpose of the holiday.
  • How far in advance the holiday is.

Even if you approve the holiday, remind the new member of staff about the holiday policy that now applies to them. This policy will usually state they should avoid making travel or holiday plans until you’ve cleared the holiday request.

Pre-booked holidays during employment

After the employee has started their employment, their holiday requests must be in line with your annual leave policy.

The policy will usually set out matters such as how to make a request, periods where holidays aren’t allowed, and whether there are any limits on the number of employees who can be off at the same time.

Can you cancel pre-booked holidays?

It’s natural for employees to think they can take any of their approved holidays. But this isn’t the case. You can cancel pre-booked holidays, so long as you provide your staff member with a notice period.

This notice has to be at least the same length as the period of leave you’re about to cancel. For example, if the employee has a pre-booked holiday of one week, you have to give a minimum of one weeks’ notice to cancel this holiday.

The more notice the employer can give, the better it will be for the employee who may have to make other arrangements.

What is the consequence of cancelling pre-booked holidays?

Again, even though you can cancel a pre-booked holiday by giving notice, consider whether this will have a negative effect on the employee. If they’ve been talking about their once-in-a-lifetime holiday for months, can you put any other measures in effect?

For example, if the need to cancel the holiday is because an important meeting will take place on one day or a project needs finalising at the start of this period, does the whole period of leave need cancelling?

What can you do instead of cancelling pre-booked holidays?

Instead of cancelling pre-booked holidays, you might wish to:

  • Holding a meeting via video conference.
  • Finalising work remotely using a company laptop.
  • Agreeing a delay to the start of the holiday.

You may also decide to pay any fees associated with changing or delaying the holiday to remove any financial detriment to the employee.

What should you do after cancelling a pre-booked holiday?

After cancelling pre-booked holidays, you’ll need to make sure the employee has plenty of opportunity to take their annual leave entitlement during the rest of that leave year. This will ensure there is not a breach of the Working Time Regulations.

Let us help you work around pre-booked holidays

Peninsula offers expert advice on pre-booked holidays. Our teams provide 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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