June 14, 2019

Holiday Season FAQ’s

Summer – the season of sun, sea and sand. Setting your out-of-office and jetting off on holiday for a week of rest and relaxation. However, from a HR perspective the summer months can be a very challenging time of year.

Our advice line has seen a spike in enquiries relating to this very topic. Therefore, I have compiled some responses to questions we’ve received relating to unplanned absence, presenteeism, recruitment and notice periods.

Unplanned absence

An employee requested a holiday however it was rejected. The employee has now called in sick on the same day they had requested as annual leave. What can I do?

The short answer would be to manage this as you would any other sickness absence. You should be completing a return to work interview with all employees who are absent from work for any other reason than usual holiday time. Discuss the refused holiday and how that appears to you the manager. If this is a reoccurring theme, then disciplinary investigations would be the next natural step. However, seek advice before making this decision. There may be, after all, a genuine reason for this type of absence.


Lots of my employees have company mobile phones and therefore have continuous access to their emails. How can I stop employees from working while on holiday? 

Presenteeism is a huge problem within the current UK workforce (the practice of being present at work for more hours than is required even when on holiday or off sick etc.).

Presenteeism situations need to be managed effectively. All employers have a duty of care for their employees.  Team Managers should be aware of the number of hours all their employees are working and when they should be taking breaks etc.

This is also in line with the Working Time Directive which enforces the regulations on all workers’ rights to breaks either during their shifts or between shifts. Employers are responsible for ensuring these are enforced. This includes ensuring employees are taking regular holidays throughout the year.

Employers should also be looking carefully at the working practices of their teams. For example, check team managers aren’t preventing holidays from being taken by overburdening their employees with too much work and ensure work is distributed evenly and fairly. Finally, it’s important to encourage all staff to use their holiday allocations regularly during the year.


I have an employee who has recently joined our business. As part of the interview process, they were asked whether they had any upcoming holidays and they said no. The employee started last week and has now informed me that they had a week’s holiday booked for the following month. Do I have to approve their annual leave?

There is no legal requirement for you to honour existing holidays (either advised at interview stage or afterwards). However, all UK based employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of statutory holidays per year (pro-rata for part time employee’s etc.) So, they are entitled to take some of these holidays as requested.

Also, check their contract as they may have additional contractual holidays above the statuary minimum.  For new employee’s you should follow best practice solutions and honour these holidays this time. However, ensure that you have advised the employee of the typical holiday booking procedure.  Also, make sure you have a robust holiday policy in place to ensure that all employees are treated fairly when booking holidays.

Notice Periods

Can employees be required to use up their holiday entitlement during their notice period?

Yes, you can ask employees to use any existing holidays that they are entitled to take as holidays during their notice period.  The alternative is for the employee to work their notice or be put on garden leave and any untaken holiday be paid in their final salary.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.

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