Messing up annual leave never leads to a good outcome.

If you don’t believe us, just ask Ryanair.

The airline has had to cancel up to 50 flights every day for the next six weeks due to mismanaging the allocation of annual leave. This has caused a media frenzy, outrage from passengers who have been affected by the cancellations and damage to their reputation.

Historically, Ryanair’s annual leave year is from 1st April to 31st March, but from next year, it will change to 1st January to 31st December. This has meant that they have had to accommodate a full year’s leave into just nine months. As over the peak summer months, they haven’t allocated much leave, they have ‘over-allocated’ in September and October.

Ryanair has also attributed the cancellations to a combination of air traffic control capacity delays and strikes and weather disruptions. But they have put their hands up and admitted that the blame lies at their door.

What can do you do to avoid similar fiascos?

Here are our 6 top tips to managing leave effectively.

Draw employee attention to annual leave policy

Your annual leave policy should lay down how much notice an employee needs to provide, how the leave must be booked and how many consecutive working days can be booked. You may also specify how many people can be off work at any one time.

Manage the requests

If everyone wants to have the same days off, you could grant leave on the basis of ‘first come, first served’. This encourages people to submit their requests early and gives you plenty of notice.

If necessary, you could also consider asking people to choose between time off at Christmas and summer.

Encourage team collaboration

For employees who are parents, they will be particular keen to have time off during half terms and the long summer break, therefore you should encourage teams to collaborate with each other to coordinate leave. This will ensure operational business requirements are met and issues are quickly resolved.

You can say no

To say no to a request, you must give the employee counter notice. The length of the notice must be equivalent to the period of leave that the employee was trying to book.

It is also possible that you oblige employees to take annual leave at certain times of the year, for example, if you close at Christmas time. Alternatively, there may be times when you may decide to prohibit employees taking annual leave at particularly busy times.

You can cancel leave

The law does allow an employer to cancel an employee’s annual leave that you have previously approved. To do this, you must provide the appropriate amount of notice. The length of the notice must be equivalent to the period of leave that the employee planned to take.

You also need to be aware that you must not cancel annual leave if it means that the employee cannot take their full statutory annual leave entitlement in that leave year.

Be fair

In any case, you need to be fair and consistent in the way you process and allocate holiday requests.

Need some help?

Annual leave is not easy to handle. If you need guidance, our Employment Law Advisers are on hand to answer your queries and help you deal with challenges.

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Call us on 0345 226 8393.

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