It is that time of year when most people are thinking about taking their summer holiday. All too often employees want to take holiday at the same time. What should you do when an employee requests holiday and it will leave you short staffed?

Contrary to popular belief, a holiday cannot be taken as and when employees request it.  Employers do have the right to decline requests, even if the employee has already booked a holiday!

Employers should have a clear process in place to request and authorise holidays.  This process would typically be set out in the Employee Handbook. The procedure should stipulate that holidays must be authorised in advance and certainly before travel arrangements are made.

I have often been asked for advice when an employee has said that the travel arrangements have already been made and the holiday is paid for.  Some give an excuse that the holiday was ‘booked as a surprise by somebody else’ and they were unaware of it.  In these cases, the employee will often say ‘I’m going anyway’.

Where an employee’s request cannot be granted, employers should put in writing (or through your HR system) that the request has been declined and ideally give the reason why.  If the employee has indicated that they are taking it anyway, it is good practice to point out that if they do take the leave, it will be considered as unauthorised absence and as such, would be addressed through the disciplinary procedure.

Unauthorised absence is often considered as gross misconduct and should be set out as such in the disciplinary procedure.

You can contact Angie Dansey at