A Guide To Your Annual Leave Rights


The Law Of… knowing your holiday rights

Every employee is entitled to it, but not everyone knows what rights they have when it comes to taking annual leave.

Our Deana Bates, Solicitor in Employment Law, explains what you need to know when asking your employer for annual leave.

A guide to your annual leave rights

How Much Notice Do I Need To Give My Employer In Order To Take Annual Leave?

When asking your employer for leave, you should give them at least twice the amount of notice as the length of holiday that you're asking for.

If you want to take 6 days of annual leave, for example, you should give your employer at least 12 days' notice.

Note that your employer’s policy could set out further notice requirements in addition to the above.

Can My Employer Cancel My Holidays At Short Notice?

Employers can cancel your annual leave if they have a clear business reason for doing so and have explored all other options.

If your employer wants to cancel your leave, they have to give you the right amount of notice. It has to be at least the same amount of time as you asked to take off from work – for example, if you asked for 5 days of annual leave, your employer will have to give you at least 5 days' notice. 

However, employers have to be careful when cancelling an employee's holiday request for 3 reasons:

  1. If their decision is stopping you from taking your basic holiday entitlement (under Working Time Regulations) in the relevant leave year, your employer may be in breach of the Working Time Regulations.
  2. If your employer cancels your annual leave without explaining why this is necessary for the business and providing the required notice and this results in you losing out financially – for example, not being able to go away on a booked holiday – you may be able to make a claim for compensation, which could include the cost of the holiday.
  3. If the holiday leave that your employer cancels is part of your contractual holiday entitlement – over and above the legal minimum holiday entitlement – you may have a claim for breach of contract where your employer prevents you from taking such holiday.

Can My Employer Decide When I Can Take Time Off?

Your employer can ask you to take your annual leave on specific dates if they believe that it's in the best interests of the business and they give you the correct notice.

For example, businesses in which demand is high around December often inform employees that no holidays can be taken during this month.

This notice has to be at least twice the length of the period that you are being asked to take. For example, if your employer wants you to take 4 days of annual leave they have to give you 8 days' notice.

They can also decide how much annual leave you can take at any given time. It is common for employers to have a policy stating that employees can take a maximum of 2 weeks off at any one time.

Care ought to be taken by employers when deciding on the times of year when holidays can be taken as this could conflict with religious events, which is an area of contention.

Can Employers Refuse Holiday Requests For Certain Times Of The Year, Such As During The School Summer Holidays Or At Christmas?

As Christmas, Easter, and the summer holidays tend to be the most popular times of the year for employees to request time off, employers might be stricter about granting leave during these periods.

Summer Holidays

When it comes to the school summer holidays, it can be difficult for parents to juggle their working responsibilities with caring for their children.

Even if your employer gets multiple requests from parents to have the same period of time off, they have to be fair and consistent when making decisions.

Ideally, holiday requests should be dealt with on a first come, first served basis as this can prevent any allegations of favouritism cropping up.


For some businesses, Christmas can be one of the busiest times of the year. That's why some employers have restrictions on the annual leave that can be taken over the holiday period.

If this is the case, your employer should communicate any of these restrictions to you in advance, to allow you to take your annual leave at other times during the year. Sometimes, employers decide to manage the Christmas period by doing the following:

  • Ask their staff to keep a certain amount of their annual leave to take over the Christmas break whilst the office closes down
  • Determine the number of days their staff can take off over Christmas, to ensure staffing levels remain consistent and that all employees have the opportunity to take time off
  • Limit the number of employees who can be off work at the same time

What Happens If My Employer Has 2 Or More Requests For The Same Period Of Annual Leave?

Employers should take a balanced approach when 2 or more employees ask to take their annual leave on the same dates.

Granting multiple requests for leave during the same period of time might not always be possible, as being understaffed might affect the running of the business.

In situations where employers receive more than 1 request, they might have a first come, first served policy or limit the days you can have off if your other colleagues are going to be away from work at the same time. 

How Can Simpson Millar's Employment Solicitors Help Me?

Disputes between employers and employees over annual leave can occur quite easily and escalate quickly if the issue isn't dealt with appropriately.

It's always a good idea to try to resolve any problems involving holiday requests directly with your employer. For example, by having an informal chat about the situation or raising a formal grievance if necessary.

But if this doesn't work or you're concerned that your employer unfairly refused your request for time off, our Employment Law solicitors can help identify what action you can take next.

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