It's kicking off for employers...

By: David Impey

Date: 10 March 2010

2010 has come round pretty fast, and business owners are getting ready to deal with workers’ requests for time off to watch World Cup matches on TV - or even go to South Africa. Can you remember all the legal rules about holidays?

The bottom line is that workers are entitled to 28 days’ paid holiday each year (a pro-rata proportion for part-timers and temps), and entitlement starts from day one of their employment. But job contracts and policies may allow your staff to carry holiday forward in some circumstances, and new case law says sick workers have the right to carry holiday forward in some circumstances, so some employees may be entitled to more than 28 days.

Contracts or policies can limit when employees can take holiday – provided they have taken their 28 days by the end of the holiday year. For example, employers may be able to insist they take part of their holiday on bank holidays and/or during an annual summer close-down, and stop them from taking holiday during peak periods or when the firm would otherwise be short-staffed – proper, objective grounds. Think about emailing employees to remind them when you can refuse holiday requests. Some employers also set limits on how long each holiday can be - for example, that no holiday can last more than a fortnight.

Contracts or policies may set out how much notice employees must give you of their holiday plans. If not, the notice an employee gives has to be twice as long as the holiday they are asking for. So two days’ holiday requires four days’ notice.

If an employer refuses proposed holiday dates they have to do so in writing, and the length of notice of the refusal must be at least as long as the holiday requested – for example, at least two weeks before the worker’s holiday is due to start if refusing a two-week holiday.

Employers often have a system for determining priority if there are holiday clashes or if they’d otherwise be left short-staffed. This needs to be fair and non- discriminatory system, which can be as simple as ‘first come, first served’. Favouring employees with longer service could discriminate against younger employees who have not had time to build up service, and may also be sex discrimination because (on average) women have shorter periods of service than men.

That’s holidays sorted – but how do you stop workers just calling in sick on their country’s match days - a particular problem with this World Cup because South Africa and the UK are on similar time zones, so matches will be on during the working day? Answers on a World Cup ticket please!

Law Donut

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