I work for a large UK organization, who employ large numbers of (mainly) part time staff. Every year it seems there is the same problem. The annual leave year runs from April to April and all leave has to be booked (at least) 6 weeks in advance. Absolutely no leave is permitted to be carried forward to the following leave year (or paid in lieu), and all leave is granted on a first come, first served basis. Tight restrictions are in place, so that only a certain number of 'leave hours' are allowed per week - in my opinion woefully inadequate given the large number of employees.

The system works fine if all staff spread their leave equally throughout the year. But inevitably there is a pile up of requests for the months of March / April and those who get their leave applications in after others are refused and told that we must 'forfeit' our leave. I applied in February for the few odd (remaining) days in April but was turned down since other employees got their applications in before mine. The trouble is, it's not always possible to know which dates so far in advance (unless you are booking a main holiday away or something). Besides, I like to keep a couple of days back - just in case of emergencies or something.

After this refusal, I asked if my remaining (few days) leave could then be allocated to any 'spare' slots, and was told that the whole of March & April was already fully booked and that I must lose this leave. Unfortunately a similar thing happened last year (when I'd only just started at the company and wasn't able to book leave months in advance. After a battle, we were finally given our leave - but it was a nasty situation at the time). This year, I was told that we had been warned about the leave situation (from the previous year and subsequently) and that it was my fault for not booking sooner.

What should I do? Should I just accept that it's my fault for not getting my application in sooner (I gave 2 months advance notice instead of the required 6 week minimum and it's only for a few odd days) or should I try to fight for it (with senior management) and risk a nasty situation like last year?

  • I do not understand your problem. You have previous experience. You have been warned. So when April swings into view, why not book up all you leave in advance. Is it easy to "unbook" leave? If so then just book it throughout the year. "unbook" as necessary to be able to move it to a more desirable time. – Ed Heal Feb 21 '16 at 9:32
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    I don't think this merits posting as an answer, but you're entitled to receive and take a certain amount of holiday as a statutory right. If you're not being allowed to take your statutory leave then I'd suggest contacting ACAS for advice after reading their views on leave here acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1374 – Rob Moir Feb 21 '16 at 9:38
  • Do you have any visibility into how many annual leave days are booked at any particular time and how many annual leave days are still outstanding across all employees or is it just left to you to guess? Also are you yourself part time? If so what happens if you request an annual leave day on a day you wouldn't normally work anyway? There can't be any argument that the business can't do without you on that day. – Martin Smith Feb 21 '16 at 14:20
  • Thanks for your answers. There is a staff notice board which shows how many hours are left remaining (across the whole company) but not for individual departments. The notice board is not regularly updated and when I tried to book my leave, space was still available. Yes, I do work part time, but my shifts are regular, fixed shifts at set times so the issue of booking leave on a day I wouldn't normally work doesn't apply. Once I was desperate for leave on a certain day, they said that I could work my shift on another day (but not book leave since all the hours for that week were booked). – Mary Feb 21 '16 at 15:43
  • I think it would be worth contacting ACAS or the Citizens advice to get their view on it. Good luck. – Martin Smith Feb 21 '16 at 15:49

Caveat: None of the below is legal advice; this is clearly an issue which causes problems for the whole workforce and as such you should consult your trade union. Trying to fight a company policy on your own is risky - you need your colleagues on board so you can solve this together.

In the mean time, here's what you can do:

  • Book as early as possible. If you can book next year's leave today, do it. Plan ahead, knowing you need to book early.
  • For each booking, record when you make your booking, when you get a response, etc. If you do later need to show you've effectively been prevented from taking holiday, then you need to keep records.
  • Remember that for some emergencies, you may be able to take unpaid time off; you don't need to save up holiday for these circumstances.

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