The summer peak for annual leave requests

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Gateley Legal

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The working world has changed significantly over recent years, but one thing that has remained the same, and likely will do for the rest of time, is the clamour to take annual leave over the summer! Traditionally, working parents with children in school will look to take the bulk of their annual leave during the summer holidays, but the vast majority of non-parents will also look to take some time off during the summer months to enjoy some (hopefully) good weather.

Types of leave

There are a number of different types of leave, available to different groups of employees based on their circumstances.

Statutory holiday entitlement

The minimum statutory entitlement for most employees and workers is 5.6 weeks’ paid leave, which can include bank holidays. Of course, entitlements may be lower for part-time or irregular hours workers and should be calculated accordingly. Employees working more than the typical five-day week are still only entitled to the maximum 5.6 weeks’ paid leave (unless employers agree otherwise).

Employers should be aware that employees will accrue holiday entitlement while off work sick, and while on maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental or parental leave. Statutory paid leave accrued by relevant employees during this time can also be carried over, unlike leave accrued up by other employees. If an employee has a planned return from parental-related leave or sickness absence it may be beneficial to plan a conversation regarding the best way to use this annual leave.

Other types of paid leave

As per the above, employees are entitled to other forms of statutory paid leave including:

  • sick leave
  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • shared parental leave
  • adoption leave

Unpaid parental leave

Parents are entitled to 18 weeks’ leave for each child, up until the child turns 18. The amount of parental leave each parent can take in a year is four weeks for each child, unless otherwise agreed by the employer.

Parents must take parental leave as whole weeks (e.g. 1 week or 2 weeks) rather than individual days, unless the employer agrees otherwise or if the child is disabled.

Employees wishing to utilise this leave must be employed by their employer for more than a year and must give at least 21 days’ notice. An employer must have a significant reason to postpone the leave when requested, e.g. that there would be a serious disruption to the business. An employer must also confirm the reasons why in writing within seven days of the employee’s request and should suggest a new date for the leave to take place.

How to best manage oversubscribed annual leave periods

It’s commonplace for employers to be oversubscribed with holiday requests during the summer period, whether that be statutory or unpaid parental leave requests, but how do employers go about trying to ensure everyone is given some of the time off they’ve requested?

Planning in advance

Managers may wish to speak to their teams as soon as annual leave allocations are refreshed at the start of the year in order to see who is planning to take a sizeable block of time off during the year, which tends to be more typical during the summer months. They may wish to ask employees to fill out schedules/ requests in the months prior so they can find fair solutions where employees all get some time off during the summer months, and make it clear to employees that they should not book holidays before annual leave has been approved. For unpaid parental leave this should also ideally be discussed with employees ahead of time, and employers should ensure they consider the impact on the business before approving these requests.

Utilising an annual leave policy

Having an annual leave policy can help to manage expectations and avoid conflicting holiday requests. The policy may set out how and when to request annual leave as well as any limits on how many people can be off at one time and for how long. Employers may want to offer a shared HR system where employees can make requests, as well as see each other’s time off and holiday requests.

Considering limits on carry over/ incentives

A number of employers do offer incentives which result in employees having the ability to take additional annual leave on top of their contractual/ statutory entitlements. Employers should think wisely about this e.g. limiting carry over days or removing the option to carry over completely in order to encourage employees to take their annual leave in a timely and appropriate fashion.

Being honest about the different wishes of employees and having direct conversations

Managers should have an open conversation with their employees regarding planned leave. Managers should also make it clear that they want to make sure all employees have fair opportunities when it comes to leave, which may mean opportunities for unpaid leave could be limited. Healthy conversation regarding this topic is encouraged and may help reduce the chances of tension further down the line.

Consider previous years

Managers may wish to consider the record of holiday taken in previous years. For instance, one employee may have taken a large amount of time off during the school holidays in the previous year, and as such priority could be given to other employees to do the same the following year.

Managers should again encourage fairness amongst these employees and potentially state that the employees who had been allowed the more desired periods off in the year prior do not get first choice in the current year.

Potential risks employers may face when it comes to allocating holiday during busy periods


An argument of sex discrimination could be made in certain circumstances e.g. where employees (typically female/ mothers) are granted large amounts of annual leave, and due to this, other employees (e.g. single men) are not permitted to take annual leave during the summer. A risk of pregnancy and maternity discrimination could also arise e.g. if annual leave for the year ahead is planned while employees are on maternity leave without asking them for their input despite the employee returning mid-way through the year. If holiday is requested around certain religious holidays or festivals employers should ensure that those requests are dealt with fairly to avoid claims of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.


Perceived unfairness regarding holidays could lead to an increase in grievances raised by other employees. Handling such grievances could take a significant amount of management time and lead to further grievances being raised by other employees. Again, not handling these grievances appropriately could lead to a further risk of an employment claim being brought by a dissatisfied employee.

Conflict between employees

Competition for holiday dates is a common cause for tension amongst employees and could sour relations in a wider team. This could have a knock-on effect on productivity and the environment within the company.

It’s important to remember that legally, no one employee has a legal right to an automatic priority to take holiday over another employee when it comes to using their holiday entitlement. Employers should consider the above advice when it comes to planning for the peak period of holiday requests, to ensure it is done in a way that is fair and gives everyone the chance to take some time off.

This article was co-authored by Charlotte Hall, trainee solicitor at Gateley Legal.

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