School’s out: Should parents be given priority for taking leave during the school holidays?

School’s out: Should parents be given priority for taking leave during the school holidays?

The months of June, July and August are undoubtedly the months where employers receive the most holiday requests from employees, some of whom will be keen to go abroad for a holiday and take advantage of the good weather and others will be taking time off to look after their children during the school holidays.

With the school summer holidays in full swing at present, many parents will have been in the position of having to make annual leave requests for childcare purposes. As parents have specific periods across the year when they can take holidays with their children, should parents be given priority for taking annual leave requests during school holidays?

The law is clear that all employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday per annum. This equates to 28 days’ holiday for an employee working five days each week. Employers can, however, decide to grant employees more holidays than the statutory minimum and this should be outlined in their contracts of employment.

Employers should acknowledge and take into account that parents will want to take annual leave during the school holidays. On the other hand, always giving parents priority could cause unrest and reduce the morale for employees who do not have children. At worst, they may leave as a result. Short of that, they may submit a grievance citing the unfairness of the rule.

To avoid losing key staff on this basis or causing upset, employers should consider their company culture and ensure that fair allocation of holidays forms part of the internal strategy. To that end, employers should have a clear procedure in place that employees should be aware of when requesting to take holidays. Of course, it is important to bear in mind that whilst employees can request to take holidays, it is for the employer to determine whether such a request has been accepted or not.

Employers should ensure that they are not favouring or prioritising one group over others. That being so, employers should have internal rules or guidance in place for managers as to how holidays are granted. For example, allowing no more than a certain number of employees within the same team to take annual leave at the same time, or granting holidays on a first-come, first-served basis, or having a rota in place for requests during “peak” times.

To reduce the risk of employees challenging the fairness of holiday allocations, employers should ensure that managers are applying the guidance consistently on receipt of all holiday requests.

If you are an employer who would like support in rolling out a clear holiday procedure, or if you are an employee who has a concern with how a holiday request has been processed, please contact our team of specialist employment lawyers for more information.

This update contains general information only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

Pauline Hughes, Solicitor: / 0141 221 8012 / Connect with Pauline on LinkedIn