• Leah Norman

Refusing Annual Leave Requests

A recent conversation with a prospective client has highlighted the importance of correctly managing employees’ requests for annual leave.

This organisation in question was seeking advice after dismissing an employee after she went away on holiday, despite her request for annual leave being refused. This organisation felt that the employee had abandoned her employment and had followed the appropriate due process in that respect, but was it really that simple? Or was this dismissal unfair on the basis that the refusal to agree to her request for annual leave was unreasonable in the first place?

And while that question will not be answered her today, as we move toward the holiday period with what feels like increasing pace, it feels timely to remind employers of their obligation to not not unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by the employee to take paid annual leave.

So as a refresher, lets cover the basics;

The timeframe

Once a request for annual leave is received, it should be reviewed and the decision should be communicated to the employee within an appropriate timeframe, having regard to the particular circumstances of the request.

Equally the employee should do the right thing by the employer and give as much notice as is possible about the proposed annual leave. That will give the employer time to assess the request and to make the necessary plans to cover for the employee’s absence should the annual leave be approved.

If you don't currently stipulate a minimum notice period for annual leave requests for your employment agreements or other company policy, it may pay to think about introducing this.

The operational requirements of the business

It is reasonable for a business to take into account its operational requirements when refusing to approve leave. For example, many businesses in retail will block out the Christmas / New Year period as a “non-leave” period to ensure that they have enough staff available during that period.

Generally, any decision to refuse a request for annual leave which is based upon genuine, sound business reasons would not usually be held to be unreasonable, however, the delayed response may mean that the refusal becomes unreasonable due to the delay; so again; timeliness is key!

Documentation of the process

As with most other employment issues, refusals to approve annual leave must be documented and provided to the employee as soon as practicable and in a manner that the employer considers appropriate in the circumstances.

Verbal communication is simply not sufficient.

Review your Leave Policy

An Annual Leave Policy that clearly states the employer’s process for requests for annual leave will go a long way to ensuring that an agreement on annual leave can be reached between both the employer and the employee and prevent potential disputes further down the track.

A well-drafted policy should outline when a request for leave should be provided to the employer, to whom that request should be provided, and may also provide examples of circumstances in which an employer might refuse to approve leave or even when an employer might direct an employee to take leave.

Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Yellow Consulting does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.

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