January 20th, 2017 / Insight posted in Blog

Can employers cancel employees’ pre-booked leave and what are the risks?

What options are available to an employer that really needs an employee to work on certain dates, but has already authorised the holiday.

The two most obvious options may be allowing the employee to take the holiday and make contingency plans to cope in the employee’s absence or discussing the matter with the employee and requesting that they cancel their leave.

Employers can in fact legally cancel an employee’s pre-booked annual leave by giving them a specified, minimum period of notice of 1 day for each day of booked leave.

An employee discovering that they are not going on the holiday they have been looking forward to is unlikely to take the news particularly well.  Further, they may have to disappoint their family and in some cases may have incurred non-refundable costs.

The employee could then become disgruntled in the longer term, thereby exposing the employer to the heightened risk of claims.  They might insist that the employer pays any costs they have incurred or simply defy the employer and take the holiday anyway.

Because of these risks, the employer should exercise this right only where there is an extremely strong business reason why the leave needs to be cancelled.  Constructive conversation with the employee and explaining why there is no other alternative to this action is going to be key to reducing the risk of damage to the relationship.

Employers also need to ensure that cancelling leave does not result in a breach of the employee’s right to take a minimum number of days’ paid annual leave per year.  If it does, then the employer will need to allow the employee to carry the leave over to the next leave year.

Cancelling someone’s pre-booked holiday is legally possible but potentially risky for employers in terms of the employment relationship.  For further advice and information on employment status and other HR issues contact Kingston Smith HR Consultancy.