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  1. #1
    is free!! Cymber
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    Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Obviously I understand in particular jobs - teaching springs to mind - workplaces understandably dictate when you can and can't take annual leave. But generally can a workplace say whatever they want as to when you take annual leave?

    My workplace is saying that we are not allowed to take any A/L in the school holidays, except for 1 week in the big summer holiday. Which means I won't be going on holiday next year, as I can't afford the inflated costs charged in August, and I can't take my kids out of school (exam period). Yes, I know holidays aren't essential!!

    When I started working there this wasn't the case, but recent pressures (less staff due to budget cuts etc) have led to this decision being made. It wasn't laid out to me when I was interviewed for the job, I believe it is my manager's own rule, rather than a organisation rule iykwim?

    I've spoken to HR and they're saying that the service needs are paramount, but that staff must be allowed to take their leave (or some such words). I haven't spoken to my union yet.

    I've had a friend saying to me 'they can't tell you when you can and can't take your A/L', but can they? I've also had another friend mention family friendly working conditions or something, and mutter discrimination.

    Any advice about legislation? Or how to approach this with my manager?
    The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.

  2. #2
    Mum to 3 wonderful kids Cat Queen
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I work for a uni and we arent allowed to take AL at certain periods due to the nature of our business, so intake time, exam period etc. Having said that, it has always been like that so I wasnt sprung onto me like your situation appears to have been. Have they got some sort of official written policy? I would speak to my union if i was uncertain.

  3. #3
    Invisable Chell
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I Googled the law regarding this a while ago and I don't think you have a right to chose your holiday at all.
    DS July 2003, DD1 January 2005, DD2 August 2008

  4. #4
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I think it would depend on your terms and conditions that are part of your contract? I work for a local authority and recently they have become much tighter about approving annual leave - not that they will stop you taking it but that they will consider service needs and work loads etc. I have to do it for my staff now and it is not popular but we can't afford any cover, nor to let things slip
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  5. #5

    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I work for a bank and we have to use 2 weeks of our annual leave in one chunk every year (but is allowed to include bank hols) so it just has to be 2 weeks off. I believe its quite common in banking (or so Im told!) but it is a bit of a pain! We were a financial services company taken over by a bank about 6 years ago but they have only enforced that 2 week rule in the last few years. No negotiation, just new rule.

    A friend of mine works in retail and isnt allowed any holidays between november the something to mid Jan to cope with xmas


    ETA - in our call centres holidays are always decided based on resource requirements based on the call forecast, people get hols declined all the time and at xmas they do it on a raffle type basis to make sure its all fair

  6. #6
    TVoR, QoN, etc. redhed
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    Yes the two week rule is standard in banking. It's an anti fraud thing - famously lots of scams get discovered when someone goes on holiday and the office gets a phone call saying actually can they deliver the big sack of cash to a different location this week, and the office say: "Big bag of cash... What big bag of cash...?"

    I think these sorts of tweaks to conditions are a bit of a legal grey area. My gut feel is that they could get away with the change if it were necessary for the business, but there are almost certainly other ways of dealing with their holiday cover problem which should put them in a weaker position. I think its one for acas.

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  7. #7
    Damsel Diva
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    yup, I work for a bank too and we have the two week rule - as redhed explained it's an anti-fraud thing, I have been allowed to split mine on a couple of occasions though.

    I'm pretty sure that legally you are entitled to XXX amount of holiday - but when you take it can be dictated (not great word but ykwim) by your employer. Lots of factories/businesses have set shut down weeks.

    Where I work, you can choose your holiday, but if too many people are off/it's a busy time you won't necessarily get your choice. We do make every effort to accommodate where we can though - not in any company's interests to have staff at work who are p!ssed off about holiday - employee engagement/satisfaction and all that....

    Mrs N x


  8. #8
    Super fit Damsel Velvet Chain
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    A long time ago I worked as an Insurance Broker and no members of staff were allowed to take holidays during July or August because of the new cars to be insured at the beginning of August (we did used to be really flat busy at that time). It was perfectly legal as the company genuinly needed the full staff at that time.

    It was very hard on the parents that worked there as effectively they couldn't be with their children for the whole of the summer holiday.

  9. #9
    la la la I can't hear you Jelly
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    What the others have said, really. You're entiteld to x number of days holiday per year but it's up to the company to decide when you can take them. It's not discrimination to not allow parents to take holidays out of term time (though it would be if they were allowed to take them in Aug purely because they were parents, IYSWIM).

    I'd speak with your manager to see if there's anything that can be done. Maybe if you volunteer to work over Christmas or something they might look more kindly on your request.

  10. #10
    Just me being me!
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I agree, I think a lot of companies can dictate when holidays are taken. I think it's usually more in the form of guidance (ie no more than 1 week in the peak summer & no more than one department member absent at a time etc). I would expect to see it in the terms and conditions if they want to enforce it, or at least in writing.

    If it's not a shut down, can you swap with a colleague?

  11. #11
    Jewellery Making Damsel
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I deal with holidays at work and have limitations as to what I am allowed to allocate.............max one week in August........restrictions as to how many drivers can be off at any given time.........I have to work my holiday around the boss's wife as she only does three days a week............No more than one picker and one warehouse person off at any one time and Office and Management allocation is at my discretion..............Outside of August there are no restrictions other than Bank Holidays where drivers are not allowed time off in the run up to them or over them as we are a 24/7 business...............

    I re did the sheets yesterday so they can see what is going on..............

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  12. #12
    TVoR, QoN, etc. redhed
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    We ask DD1's carer not to take holiday in school holidays: it's essential to the job because we need the support most in the school holidays. Having said that, her birthday happened to fall at half term once, so we let her take half term off and we got a temp in. We're not completely inflexible!

    But that's a known condition of employment at the time of hiring. A change is a bit different, which is why I say it's a grey area (my father used to have this problem a lot when they were merging companies with different contract conditions and of course nobody liked the new merged conditions and there ended up being a lot of argument with unions about what each benefit was "worth" and whether the new conditions were really equivalent but different, or actually worse) and afaik it depends on the extent of the change and how far it is justified as to whether it's enforceable. Plus there are a couple of other laws that might help here: first you could see your request for holiday as an application under the flexible working conditions regs, where if you have kids you are allowed to ask to vary your hours: term time working is a recognised pattern under the flexible working rules so this would be a reduced version of term time working if you think of it like that. So you could talk to HR about it in those terms: ie if I submitted this holiday request using the flexible working form, you as the employer would have to provide a good written justification as to why not and "it's not policy" is absolutely NOT good enough under the regulations. So what would your response be? The second thing is that it might be sex discrimination: something that I think was always true, but is maybe now clearer under the Equalities act, is that if your working hours are not family-friendly, then the job conditions may be discriminating against women, because women more often have caring responsibilities. Again, it's not discriminatory if the employer can justify why they have to have those working hours in order to do their business; in that case it's not a "reasonable adaptation". But if there's no good reason for that working pattern, it's discriminatory. I think generally to get them properly you'd have to resign and claim compensation for constructive dismissal by reason of discrimination, but of course the game is to get HR to see the risk and change the policy long before you get to that stage.

    Both of those two approaches would work better if you can propose an alternative solution to whatever problem this holiday rule solves. In the case of the banking 2-week rule, there aren't a lot of alternatives, but you can move people around in the organisation to an extent - I've managed to get that one through Compliance on a project before now. Maybe an equivalent in your organisation would be that you have to give 3 months' notice of holiday outside of term time, and it's first-come first-served, only one person can be off at a time. Again, I've put similar rules in for busy periods, and they've worked OK.

  13. #13
    is free!! Cymber
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Thanks for all the replies. It's like you were all beavering away whilst I slept!!

    Quote Originally Posted by fifitrix View Post
    I think it would depend on your terms and conditions that are part of your contract? I work for a local authority and recently they have become much tighter about approving annual leave - not that they will stop you taking it but that they will consider service needs and work loads etc. I have to do it for my staff now and it is not popular but we can't afford any cover, nor to let things slip
    Sounds very like my situation. I udnerstand that things are tough with less staff and not wanting it to affect the service, but what is happening is they're letting it affect staff - expecting a lot more from them.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrsnozza View Post
    Where I work, you can choose your holiday, but if too many people are off/it's a busy time you won't necessarily get your choice. We do make every effort to accommodate where we can though - not in any company's interests to have staff at work who are p!ssed off about holiday - employee engagement/satisfaction and all that....
    Exactly!! And that's how it worked before, but I think it's started to get a little more complicated recently, and so my manager has taken the easy option of just banning A/L during school holidays. What's frustrating is that other managers are not taking the same approach with their workers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jelly View Post
    I'd speak with your manager to see if there's anything that can be done. Maybe if you volunteer to work over Christmas or something they might look more kindly on your request.
    They close down over Christmas, so no deal to be made there. I am very flexible otherwise though, cover staff absences, etc. I'm not asking for all the school hols off, just one week not in the big summer holidays.

    Quote Originally Posted by scatterbrain View Post
    If it's not a shut down, can you swap with a colleague?
    No-one is allowed school holidays off, so again no deal to be made.

    Again thanks for all the replies. I just wanted to get a sense of what's normal and what's allowed before I challenge it.

  14. #14
    is free!! Cymber
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Quote Originally Posted by redhed View Post
    But that's a known condition of employment at the time of hiring. A change is a bit different, which is why I say it's a grey area (my father used to have this problem a lot when they were merging companies with different contract conditions and of course nobody liked the new merged conditions and there ended up being a lot of argument with unions about what each benefit was "worth" and whether the new conditions were really equivalent but different, or actually worse) and afaik it depends on the extent of the change and how far it is justified as to whether it's enforceable. Plus there are a couple of other laws that might help here: first you could see your request for holiday as an application under the flexible working conditions regs, where if you have kids you are allowed to ask to vary your hours: term time working is a recognised pattern under the flexible working rules so this would be a reduced version of term time working if you think of it like that. So you could talk to HR about it in those terms: ie if I submitted this holiday request using the flexible working form, you as the employer would have to provide a good written justification as to why not and "it's not policy" is absolutely NOT good enough under the regulations. So what would your response be? The second thing is that it might be sex discrimination: something that I think was always true, but is maybe now clearer under the Equalities act, is that if your working hours are not family-friendly, then the job conditions may be discriminating against women, because women more often have caring responsibilities. Again, it's not discriminatory if the employer can justify why they have to have those working hours in order to do their business; in that case it's not a "reasonable adaptation". But if there's no good reason for that working pattern, it's discriminatory. I think generally to get them properly you'd have to resign and claim compensation for constructive dismissal by reason of discrimination, but of course the game is to get HR to see the risk and change the policy long before you get to that stage.
    That's the kind of thing I was thinking.

    Quote Originally Posted by redhed View Post
    Both of those two approaches would work better if you can propose an alternative solution to whatever problem this holiday rule solves. In the case of the banking 2-week rule, there aren't a lot of alternatives, but you can move people around in the organisation to an extent - I've managed to get that one through Compliance on a project before now. Maybe an equivalent in your organisation would be that you have to give 3 months' notice of holiday outside of term time, and it's first-come first-served, only one person can be off at a time. Again, I've put similar rules in for busy periods, and they've worked OK.
    I think there are alternatives, and they've worked in the past, but because it's got a little more complicated recently, I think he is flexing his managerial muscle and creating rules now.

  15. #15
    Doesn't give a *!* Damsel DillyDally
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I agree with red re: discrimination/flexible working. I wonder if it's something the Working Families organisation could help you with?
    Dilly xx

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  16. #16
    TVoR, QoN, etc. redhed
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cymber View Post
    I think there are alternatives, and they've worked in the past, but because it's got a little more complicated recently, I think he is flexing his managerial muscle and creating rules now.
    Which is OK - like I say, I've had to bring in holiday rules for specific projects, and they're never popular (though with big projects you can always say that it's business critical, and anyway it's a temporary change - so it was less contentious). But they were always discussed first, and if the feedback was that they were unworkable, I would have come up with something else. Though it's a bit different in IT, I think - the PM is very much "first amongst equals" or at least has been where I've worked, so I never needed to flex managerial muscle; I'm not sure I actually have any! I guess in a more hierarchical environment he'd find it easier to be told his plan stinks, if the message came from HR - which is where you're a bit dependant on how good your HR dept are. Hopefully raising it with HR as a flexible working request, dropping a polite query about how it relates to discrimination law into the conversation, would trigger them to go talk to him.

  17. #17
    Damsel Diva *Marti*
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    By law they can dictate when you take all of your holiday. Sorry!

  18. #18
    is free!! Cymber
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Quote Originally Posted by DillyDally View Post
    I agree with red re: discrimination/flexible working. I wonder if it's something the Working Families organisation could help you with?
    Thanks for that. I'll check it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by redhed View Post
    Hopefully raising it with HR as a flexible working request, dropping a polite query about how it relates to discrimination law into the conversation, would trigger them to go talk to him.
    Hopefully that kind of approach will prove fruitful!

  19. #19
    TVoR, QoN, etc. redhed
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    Also have a look at this and this. It looks as if the right to choose your holiday dates may have become an implied part of your contract by custom and practice. A change to your contract should be discussed and any alternatives you suggest should be considered, though the employer does not have to accept them, particularly for a minor change which is justified.

  20. #20
    Got husband, need wife! Dr Spouse
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    Re: Just how far can a workplace dictate when you take your annual leave?

    I'm afraid they do have a lot of control, I also work for a Uni and the rules about taking holiday are different for different types of staff which drives us bananas. Admin staff can take holiday in uni term time but academic staff can't, even though there are periods when we never see students while the student-facing admin offices are supposed to be open all term and some of them are staffed by a single person.

    I took 4 days for my honeymoon in term time and a colleague is on his this week, but that's about the maximum. Colleagues with well-behaved school age children work from home most of half term and those with children who won't leave them to work in peace, just arrange childcare in half term because it's always a uni term week. I can't think of anyone who's taken more than a couple of days of half term as holiday, very occasionally, you wouldn't get that week under flexible working and you also wouldn't get the A level results period under that rule - too many people would want half term under flexible working, and the A level results is "business critical".

    Mr S used to work in financial services but not in a bank, they had a year end busy period (meaning 31st December year end!) which was actually quite handy when my mother is trying to get you to spend 2 solid weeks in her tiny house over Christmas and New Year with vast quantities of family.

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