Within the Working Time Regulations 1998, all employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday. Not being organised or planning in advance for annual leave could land an employer in hot water – just ask Ryanair. Ryanair have received widely publicised criticism for not managing employees’ holidays correctly. The impact and final cost of this has not been published by Ryanair, but it has been estimated to have cost over £20million.

The aim of this article is to stop small businesses from falling into the same trap and costing the employer hard earned cash.

Know your employees’ contractual terms

Knowing exactly how many holidays each employee is entitled to will help a business with its holiday management. Being aware of any contractual obligations that an employer has committed to regarding holidays will also help. Some contracts guarantee that an employee will have 2 consecutive weeks off per year, or that an employee can give as little as 48 hours notice to take holidays.

Don’t assume that the employee will only have the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks.

Having a clear holiday policy

Similar to the above point, if the contract is silent on holiday particulars, then having a good policy in place will help with holiday management.

A good holiday policy will provide details on:

  • How much holiday can be taken at one time
  • How much notice must be given to take holiday
  • How many people can be off at any one time
  • When the holiday year runs from and until
  • Whether or not unused holidays can be carried over into the next holiday year

Holiday is still considered to be a ‘use it or lose it’ benefit, but if this point is emphasised in a policy it makes it much easier for businesses to enforce.

Keeping an effective log of holidays

Who has taken what and when? Being organised and monitoring how much holiday an employee has taken and when will help. Regularly reviewing who has taken what holidays and proactively contacting employees who have a ‘build up’ of holidays to ensure they book them in should stop an end of year rush.

Remember under the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employer can dictate that an employee takes holiday as long as double the amount of notice is given in relation to the amount of holiday the employee will be expected to take; i.e. if an employer wants an employee to take a 1 week holiday, 2 weeks’ notice should be given.

Don’t be afraid to say no!

An employee has the right to request holidays, but does not have the right to have holidays granted. An employer can, within reason, say no to an employee’s holiday request.  If the holiday request does not fall within the holiday policy, or will have a negative impact on the business, an employer does not have to grant it.

Employees should ensure that holidays have been accepted before booking their trips away.


Being organised, knowing your employees’ terms and conditions, having a good, clear policy and sticking to it are all essential to effective holiday management.

As with any policy, being fair and consistent will help everyone with forward planning.

If you need help writing a holiday policy contact one of our Employment Law Consultants on 0161 603 2156.