As the Easter holidays approach the number of holiday requests may start to increase.
Especially as this year the timing of the Easter holidays may mean that some employees will be able to take 18 consecutive days off work and only use nine days of their annual leave entitlement.
Sounds complicated but Good Friday is on April 14, Easter Monday on April 17 and that’s followed by May Bank Holiday on May 1. So the 18 days from April 13 to May 2 would include three bank holidays, six weekend days and only nine days of the working week.
That’s a nice long break from work but obviously it’s not going to be practicable for employers to allow all their staff to book this time off so some holiday requests will need to be refused.
However could that lead to employment claims being made?
There is the risk that the employee may complain that they have requested the holiday for religious reasons.
A recent example of such a claim was the case of Gareddu v London Underground Ltd UKEAT/0086/16/DM in which the employee claimed the refusal to allow him a five-week summer holiday was religious discrimination as he had intended to go to a number of ancient religious festivals with his family in Sardinia. That claim failed. It was not accepted that he had requested the extended holiday for religious reasons.
In the event that a holiday request was made for genuine religious reasons the employer would have to justify their refusal of the request by showing that the application of their holiday policy was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
In practice the employer should be able to show that it acts reasonably in dealing with holiday requests and has in place a fair system for granting leave that meets the needs of the business but does not put employees of any particular religion or belief – or those who do not hold any religious beliefs – at a disadvantage.
What is reasonable will depend on the size of the employer, its resources, and the number of employees requesting leave at the same time.
A similar risk applies in respect of indirect sex discrimination and requests for holiday to look after children because they are off school during Easter. Tribunals accept that more women than men have caring responsibilities, so an inflexible policy that vetoed annual leave at certain times that coincided with school holidays could be open to challenge if a worker was unable to find alternative childcare arrangements.
In the vast majority of cases employers will simply deal with holiday requests on the basis of who asks first so the Easter holiday period may have been booked up months before. That might be an acceptable reason for refusal. However get ready for Christmas 2017 and the possibility of 10 days off in a row by booking just three days’ holiday.
For further information, please contact:
Chris Davies, associate, Employment
T: 0161 836 7936