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Can An Employer Dictate When You Take Your Holidays?

By Employment Solicitor

Regardless of how much we enjoy our jobs, most of us look forward to the holidays.

But imagine if you couldn’t take days off, if annual leave was refused.

Sadly it’s a reality for many with the Trades Union Congress revealing that one in 12 UK workers were missing out amid unrealistic workloads and employers deliberately denying holiday requests or not keeping up to date with the law.

According to the TUC, more than two million workers are not getting their legal holiday entitlement, with many not having any paid leave at all.

The analysis showed that workers are losing out on nearly £3 billion worth of paid leave a year.

Is Every Employee Entitled to Annual Leave?

Most workers are entitled to a statutory annual minimum of 28 days paid leave (based on a five-day working week), which can include public holidays. Some workers will be entitled to more annual leave as set out in their contract. Certain jobs may dictate when you take that holiday – for example, in the hospitality industry where you may be asked to avoid busy times, or in the school holidays if you’re a teacher – but any such requirements should be mentioned in your employment contract.

 

What Can I Do If I’m Being Denied Time Off?

If you’re repeatedly told that you can’t take leave days during a period of time when you’re entitled to take leave under your contract, you should raise this with your manager or HR representative to find out what the reasons are and whether they are justified. If the issue isn’t resolved satisfactorily, you can raise a formal grievance with your employer –advice on how to do this should be detailed in your staff handbook or contract. You may also decide to seek legal advice – either independently or as a member of a trade union. 

It’s worth noting, however, that if there is a genuine business reason why you can’t take days off at a certain time then that is likely to be an adequate response from your employer.  You may want to remind your employer that they are legally required to allow you to take your statutory minimum holiday within the holiday year. It may also be a breach of your contract of employment if they don’t allow you to take your full contractual entitlement. 

 

Are Temporary Staff Or Workers In The Gig Economy Entitled to Annual Leave?

Wherever you work, you’re entitled to be paid for statutory minimum holiday whether you’re a full-time, part-time, agency or casual worker or employee. The only situation where you are not entitled to holiday is if you’re genuinely self-employed/an independent contractor.
Agency or casual workers might be told they’ll get extra pay on top of their hourly rate instead of being given paid holiday leave. This is called rolled-up holiday pay and the idea is that you store up the extra pay and use it when you want to take time off work.
While the government and Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) recommends employers don’t use rolled-up holiday pay, it is not unlawful if your employer does it clearly and your payslips show the amounts separately.

What Law Would Employers Be Breaching If They Denied Annual Leave?

The Working Time Regulations 1998 require workers to be paid for annual leave. Workers who are denied statutory rest breaks or holidays, in breach of the Working Time Regulations can bring a claim before the Employment Tribunal. If they are successful in their claim the worker can be awarded compensation. Failure to pay you for annual leave may also give rise to a claim for unlawful deductions from wages which can be pursued in the Employment Tribunal. Do note that the time limits for bringing Employment Tribunal claims are short and most need to be pursued within three months less one day of the relevant failure/ deduction. You may also have a breach of contract claim. 

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