Refusal of Leave

You recently issued a refusal of leave request due to business reasons but the employee has now told you that they plan to take the time off regardless of it not being approved.

What should your next steps be?

Employment Law is very clear – holiday cannot be taken as and when the employee wants – in line with your policy in your Handbook they need to obtain permission in advance. Your obligation is that should you need to turn a request down, you cannot just say “no”. You must write formally to them with your refusal decision and state the reason(s) why.

The letter should also warn the employee that if they go ahead and take the time off anyway, you will:

  • deem their absence to be unauthorised which is considered a serious disciplinary offence: and
  • not pay them during their absence.

This shows you have legitimate business grounds. We have included a template letter for this purpose in our HR Toolkit. Oh and if you don’t have a handbook there is one of those in our HR toolkit too!

If you have rejected the leave request and issued a letter with these details, in the event the employee goes ahead and carries out their threat, you can deal with this as normal, i.e. as a misconduct issue under your formal disciplinary procedure.

Where you end up having to take disciplinary action, remember not to arrange the hearing during the employee’s absence – that will be unreasonable and unfair. A disciplinary hearing should only be held when they’ve returned to work.

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Having a clear Policy is only the first step – ensure that it is communicated effectively and all staff have “signed up” to be aware of the annual leave request process and policy. Employees should be reminded that holidays should not be booked until the leave is approved.

Provided the employee knew the potential consequences of their actions in advance of taking them, an unauthorised period of absence can give you grounds for dismissal.

A solution…

If you are among the many who find calculating and managing annual leave a bit daunting, sign up to our email course on ‘Managing Annual Leave – An Employer’s Guide‘. There is no fee, no test and an email is delivered straight to your inbox over 10 days. This course is suitable for anyone who has oversight of managing annual leave.

If you need a hand to get your policies in order and/or a good few of them are up for review, this is a great opportunity to have a look at our Online HR Toolkit. This Toolkit is designed to empower you to self-manage almost any HR situation.