Q&As

In what circumstances can an employer refuse an employee’s request to cancel a period of annual leave which was previously agreed by the employer, for example in respect of coronavirus (COVID-19) where the employee has had to cancel or rearrange their travel plans?

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Published on LexisPSL on 23/04/2020

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • In what circumstances can an employer refuse an employee’s request to cancel a period of annual leave which was previously agreed by the employer, for example in respect of coronavirus (COVID-19) where the employee has had to cancel or rearrange their travel plans?

In what circumstances can an employer refuse an employee’s request to cancel a period of annual leave which was previously agreed by the employer, for example in respect of coronavirus (COVID-19) where the employee has had to cancel or rearrange their travel plans?

Where an employee wants to cancel a pre-arranged period of holiday, in the absence of a contractual right to do so, they will need their employer’s agreement.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998), SI 1998/1833 do not give employees a statutory right to cancel a pre-arranged period of holiday, and it is unusual for holiday provisions in an employment contract, or a holiday policy, to allow for this.

In most cases, therefore, it is likely to be down to the employer to decide whether or not to agree to the request.

However, there are competing interests to consider, particularly in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19): on the one hand, an employee who has had a holiday cancelled because of coronavirus will want to save their holiday entitlement until such time as they are able to re-schedule their holiday. They may prefer not to use precious holiday entitlement while confined to their home under lockdown.

On the other hand, an employer may prefer employees to continue to take holidays during the lockdown period—not least to minimise the extent to which employees build up sizeable chunks of holiday

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