Why is a fair and balanced annual leave process so important for all employees, including those with parental commitments.

In 2021, the working world witnessed a significant presence of parents in the workforce. According to the ONS 2021 the workforce is made up of 75.6% of mothers with dependent children, 50.4% of working families with both parents employed full-time, and 92.1% of fathers with dependent children. Demonstrating that a substantial proportion of the workforce consists of individuals who may require time off for child-related emergencies and school holidays.

Balancing Fairness and Non-Discrimination

When faced with employee requests for leave, it is crucial to establish a fair process across your workforce that safeguards against any form of discrimination based on protected characteristics such as age, sex, race, or religion. Whilst it’s important to recognise that some employees have more dependents, special treatment or priority should not be given to employees with children as this can affect morale of the rest of the team.

Creative Approaches for Time-Off Allocation

For busy trading or holiday times, where not all employees can have their first-choice dates approved, alternative methods can be employed. Consider selecting employees for time off by implementing a rotation system over different years, drawing names out of a hat, or fairly dividing available days among those making requests. Whilst a first-come-first-served basis can be a practical solution, it fails to account for individual circumstances or additional information that might justify the need for time off, such as a childcare emergency.

Striking a Balance with “Holiday Rules”

Another effective approach may involve enforcing “holiday rules” that outline combinations of employees who cannot be absent simultaneously. By implementing such rules, you ensure a balance between employee time off and the smooth functioning of the business.

Considerate Alternatives for Denied Leave Requests

Parents that are denied annual leave requests may request unpaid time off via a parental leave request or alternate working arrangements such as a flexible working request. These requests are formal processes and should be fully considered in line with the needs of the business. It’s worth noting that if annual leave was deemed unsuitable to grant, similar considerations should apply to these alternative requests. However, it is crucial to follow a comprehensive and proper process to avoid potential ramifications. At Hallidays HR we advise numerous clients on how to legally handle requests for flexible working, including writing policy, drafting letters and supporting with meetings.

Understanding Employee Rights

But can you, as an employer, say no? Annual leave is an employee’s statutory right. As an employer you need to ensure that your teams can take at least 5.6 weeks (28 days, including bank holidays) of leave per year if they work five days a week. However, as the school summer holidays approach and you begin to receive numerous annual leave requests, it’s important to remember that you have the authority to decline requests when multiple employees wish to take time off simultaneously and were meeting the business’s needs becomes a challenge.

Enforcing Holidays

Enforcing holidays is another aspect to consider. Employers hold the legal right to enforce employee holidays, provided they fulfill the minimum legal requirement of giving notice equal to double the length of the time off requested. For instance, if an employee requests one week of leave, they must provide at least two weeks’ notice. However, it is important to exercise this right judiciously and in accordance with employee rights. Some employees use enforced leave effectively over the Christmas period to make sure all staff get a break.

By establishing fair processes, considering individual circumstances, and adhering to legal requirements, employers can effectively manage annual leave during school holidays whilst respecting the needs of both employees and the business.

How Hallidays HR can help

If you would like to discuss the circumstances for your business and your employees, then please do not hesitate to contact us.