Staff Leave Refusals: 5 Things HR and Employees Should Know

Staff Leave Refusals: 5 Things HR and Employees Should Know

When booking season lies just over the horizon, HR Departments brace themselves for the flood. Most staff leave requests are granted but when they are rejected, it can cause some friction. Well, knowledge and online leave management systems can help.

Refusals are always uncomfortable to deliver. Understanding either side’s view has a major role to play in promoting a smoother process. Employees are legally entitled to paid leave. But, employers are well within their rights to decide when exactly that time off is taken.

Of course, tracking staff leave taken, calculating remaining entitlements and referencing the terms of an employee’s particular contract can be a headache for HR. But online leave management systems are designed for the task, making use of highly accurate leave tracking software to keep things in order.

Usually, maintaining operations is the chief reason a request is denied. There can be other reasons though and the apparent ‘unfairness’ can cause arguments. However there are simple facts that each party should know to help avoid that outcome.

Staff Leave Refusals – What You Should Know

  1. Staff Leave Entitlement

    Employee leave entitlements are set out in legislation to make sure both employers and employees understand exactly where they stand. In Ireland, the details of these entitlements are laid out in the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, which stipulates that employees can have:

    • 4 working weeks (20 days) in a leave year in which the employee works at least 1,365 hours. Unless the employee has changed jobs within that term.
    • One-third of a working week for each month in the leave year in which he or she works at least 117 hours
    • 8% of the hours worked in a leave year, up to a maximum of 4 working weeks

    In the UK, entitlements are set in the Working Time Regulations 1998, which states that:

    • Employees are entitled to a statutory maximum of 28 days (5.6 working weeks) paid annual leave per year.
    • The first 4 weeks are granted through the EU Working Time Directive. These weeks must be taken within a leave year, so cannot be carried forward. The remaining 1.6 weeks can be carried forward if the employer agrees.
    • An annual staff leave ‘week’ is the same length as an employee’s normal working week. So, someone who works a 4-day week is entitled to 22.4 days paid leave (5.6 x 4).
    • Bank holidays can be included in the 5.6 weeks entitlement, though employers may choose grant them as extra days.

    Keep on top of all the elements of employee entitlements. It’s made a lot easier through online leave management systems, with the leading leave tracking software providing real-time data.


  2. Create A Staff Leave Policy Document – And Share It!

    Informing employees of their entitlements is only part of efforts to prevent frustration. The company’s holiday policies and request procedures should also be clearly laid out too. The best way to do this is to create an official Holiday Policy Document and distribute it amongst the whole staff. If employees have any questions, they can be referred to the document.

    Make sure your policy document sets out:

    • When requests should be made
    • Who the request should be sent to
    • The specific details required (start and end dates)
    • What circumstances can result in a staff leave refusal


  3. Set A Request Time Frame

    Companies have every right to set application periods that a leave request must be sent within in advance of any time off. For example, for 2 consecutive weeks off work, an employee must lodge a request at least 4 weeks in advance of that leave start date. Failure to adhere to this time frame would mean rejection. Staff leave tracking software can help red-flag an application as soon as it has been put into the system.


  4. ‘Reasonable Notice’ Obligation

    Employers can stipulate their own application schedules. However, they also must also provide ‘reasonable notice’ when a request is denied. In the UK, the Working Time Regulations state that employers must provide a counter notice at least as many days in advance the requested leave was due to begin. This is also a function that a leave tracking software can deal with.


  5. Refusals Must Always Be Justified

    The staff leave request refusals are at discretion of the employer. However, it’s expected that the refusal be justified. It means that a company cannot simply say no, they need to explain why. General reasons for refusal can be included in the company’s policy document, but decisions ought to be made on a case-by-case basis.

    The principal justification for request refusals is the operational needs of the company, but others could be:

    • The employee has not provided adequate notice
    • The employee does not have sufficient annual leave accrued
    • Customs and practices of the business

About the Author

AnnualLeave is a leading employee leave management tool on the market, lifting the HR headache by cutting request processing times, monitoring leave trends, and maintaining company compliance all with one user-friendly, affordable self-service app. For more information you can get in touch with one of our team via our online form or email at

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