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Practice dilemma: Holiday leave at an inconvenient time

One of your reception team has asked to take her last five days of annual leave at a time which is not convenient because others have previously arranged absence over the same period. The holiday year end is not too far away. What can you do?

Despite employees being entitled to annual leave, there is no obligation for this to be granted if their request does not fit in with the requirements of the practice.

Contracts usually provide that a request for holiday be given with sufficient notice and whilst there is often flexibility with short notice requests, the right to take annual leave is subject to notice requirements being complied with.

Having said that, you must not act unreasonably or in an arbitrary way when approaching the conditions attached to taking holiday. It is particularly relevant at the end of a leave year; as leave not taken before this is usually lost.

If you unreasonably refuse holiday at all, or especially at the end of a leave year, this may lead to a grievance being raised or potentially an employee resigning and claiming they had been constructively unfairly dismissed.

Refusing the holiday is therefore risky and finding a mutually satisfactory solution is preferable. For example, even though it's not ideal, could some or their entire request be accommodated, or could some holiday to be carried forward to another year?

To avoid problems in the future, you should take care to make sure employees take their annual leave throughout the year to avoid staff shortages at the end of the leave year.

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards