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Can my Employer Cancel Annual Leave Last Minute?

As it doesn’t happen too often many employees and employers may not be fully aware of their rights in regard to cancelling annual leave.

In simple it can be said that both employee and employer have the right to cancel booked holidays when enough notice has been given and other criteria have been met. Such criteria include the reason of the cancellation, the notice given and the possibility to book the time off later in the same holiday year.

Employer Cancelling Annual Leave

Reason for the Cancellation of Booked Holidays

Even if time off has previously been approved by the employer, they may cancel an employee’s annual leave if there is a good reason to do so. This could for example be an unexpected new project, a deadline moved forward or a large change in the business.

The employer should in all cases explore all options available to prevent the cancellation of booked holidays as each member of staff has the legal entitlement to take their full holiday allotment during their holiday year.

When an Employee can Claim Constructive Dismissal for Cancelled Annual Leave

If the employer does not have a good reason to cancel the booked annual leave the employee may subsequently have a case for constructive dismissal. They would then be entitled to claim compensation at the employment tribunal.

The employer would also be disallowed from cancelling an employee’s annual leave if that meant that the employee as a result would not be able to use up all their holiday entitlement before the end of that booking year.

Giving Adequate Notice Before Cancelling Booked Time Off

If the employer does need to cancel an employee’s annual leave then they will need to provide adequate notice and their reason for doing so.

Per law, the employer must give at least the same length of notice before the start of the annual leave as the length of the annual leave. This means that if the employee has booked five days holiday, the employer must give at least five days’ notice.

When the Employee Cancels Annual Leave

If the employee wishes to cancel their booked leave due to unforeseen circumstances, they would need to provide the same notice.

The employer does not need to accommodate for this cancellation request if it would not be in the business’s best interest. This could be the case if for example holiday cover has been set up already.

Being Refused Annual Leave

The employer may need to refuse certain leave requests if this would be in the business’s best interest to do so. This could for example be the case around busy periods where the company can’t miss any members off staff or during holiday times when too many people have requested leave at the same time.

In any case, the business should give a good reason as to why the decision to reject the request was made. The business must also ensure that all employees have the ability to use up all their holiday time.

If the employer refuses and/or cancels so many leave requests leaving the employee without the ability to use up their annual leave allotment the employee could be able to claim constructive dismissal as well.

Business Specific Cancellation Policies

Each business has a different set of policies and procedures in place to manage their human resources.

It is not a legal requirement to include a bespoke annual leave cancellation policy within the provided HR documentation, however there are many companies that do.

Within the annual leave policy, a business can choose to include information about how cancellation requests will be processed, when a booked holiday could be cancelled and during which periods annual leave can be requested.

Working Time Regulations

The legislation regarding annual leave and cancellation of annual leave is included in the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Regulation 13 clearly outlines the entitlement to annual leave that each employee is entitled to while regulation 15 outlines further instructions on cancellation and notice periods of annual leave.

This directive is set out to protect both employee’s wellbeing and business interests in a fair and balanced manner. It is expected employees and employers treat each other fairly and keep in mind the other party’s interest as well as their own when cancelling booked annual leave.

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