This year, Easter falls across the dates of 2 April until 5 April 2021, which means your employees may apply for four days off either side of these dates and end up with eight days off! With the break quickly approaching, what can you do if an employee decides to submit a last-minute annual leave request? Here, we’ve compiled the most common concerns and about managing late leave requests and some advice on how to address them.

1. Is it considered discrimination if I refuse to give leave when an employee applies for it at the last minute?

While an employee whose last-minute leave request is denied may feel as though they are being discriminated against given their colleagues are gearing up for a nice break, in short, the answer is no. Annual leave can only be taken at a time that is agreed by both the employee and the employer.

Employers have the right to refuse an employee’s annual leave requests on reasonable business grounds. Reasonable refusal could include that would impact on customer service due to other staff already being on periods of approved leave, it would require the employer to re-arrange the working hours of other staff to cover the period or any other reasonable operational requirements.

It’s not discrimination to refuse leave where an employee is making an unreasonable demand. Leave is granted by consent, which can be reasonably withheld.

2. To refuse or not to refuse leave, that is the question…

If an employee makes a last-minute request for annual leave, the big question for the employer is whether to refuse the leave (if there is a reasonable business ground for doing so) or grant it. Refusing an employee’s leave request may damage the ongoing working relationship, but on the other hand, it could cause operational issues for the business. When it’s not possible to grant leave, we encourage you to give clear reasons as to why you’ve refused the request and to do this with some empathy, rather than just giving a blunt refusal.

3. If I refuse leave, will an employee abuse another leave type?

Sometimes employees can misuse personal or sick leave to get those days off, regardless of your refusal to grant annual leave. When this happens, you need to be very clear and consistent in how you deal with those employees. If you think it’s possible, it’s reasonable to tell your employees that sick leave applications over this period must be accompanied by proof of illness (at least a medical certificate or equivalent), and that those days will be unpaid if suitable proof is not provided.

As an employer, HR team or manager, it can feel like a balancing act during the holidays (especially when you receive a leave request a few days before the event), having to balance business continuity vs employee happiness while the entire weight of the business rests on your shoulders.  

4. You can refuse, but do your homework first

If you’re facing last-minute leave requests, remember that they can be reasonably refused. That said, it’s also worth knowing what your employee’s plans are before you do this. You might find that the leave has great personal meaning to them, or that they’ve already spent a lot of money. And you might also find that they’re flexible and open to compromise around working and taking a break during the holiday period.

While you could end up having to come up with a last-minute solution yourself to keep everyone happy this Easter, being open, honest, transparent and respectful is the key to making the right decision. After the break, you can always use the next twelve months to review your policy on leave and make sure it’s clear, fair and complies with workplace laws. You can also encourage your employees to apply for leave early next Easter.

Compliance is our strength, and we love helping others achieve it. With the resources available in enableHR, you’ll have everything you need to be 100% compliant when managing your people over the Easter holidays, such as up-to-date employment agreements, leave policies and more.

See enableHR in action today! Contact us to learn more about how we can help your business get compliance right – all the time.