Summer can be a clouded issue

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Summer is approaching and as temperatures rise, so do a number of workplace issues.

Summer means many of us are planning holidays to make the most of good weather and school holidays. However, summer also means that employers face challenges of managing holiday requests and potentially even increased levels of sickness absence. I’ve set out below three questions I’m most commonly asked by employees and employers alike, at this time of year -

What notice should employees provide to take holidays?

Its good practice for employers to communicate holiday arrangements and a simple absence policy could reduce the likelihood of disputes. In the absence of a policy or contractual term, the minimum notice an employee is required to provide is at least twice the period of holiday requested. For example, if an employee wishes to take one week’s holiday, he/she must provide at least two week’s notice.

Can an employer refuse a holiday request?

Yes. Employers can refuse a holiday request but should remember to provide the employee with notice that their request has been refused of at least the same duration as the period of holiday requested. For example, in the case of one week’s holiday, an employer would be required to give at least one week’s notice of any refusal.

Typically, requests are refused where other employees have already booked the same period (a common scenario in summer) or where the requested time off falls during a busy time.

Although employers are not required to provide reasons for refusing holiday requests, it is good practice to do so. Equally, a simple policy outlining potential reasons for refusing leave and highlighting busy periods could help reduce the likelihood of disputes.

What should an employer do if a sickness absence coincides with a previously refused holiday request and may not be genuine?

Although important not to make assumptions, it would be reasonable to question the employee when he/she reports the absence and as part of a return to work meeting. If an employee is evasive or provides an inconsistent account of symptoms, it may be appropriate to investigate further. In circumstances where there is evidence that the employee wasn’t genuinely ill (for example, if he/she was spotted in the local beer garden!), disciplinary action should be taken in accordance with policy or in line with the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.