Cancelling Employees' Annual Leave

Ryanair cancelled flights after admitting it had “messed up” the planning of its pilots’ holidays.

2nd Nov 2017

The budget airline proposed to cancel up to 50 flights a day up until the 20th September, affecting thousands of customers, because employee’s need to catch up on their holiday entitlements and clear off a backlog of leave by employees before the end of 2017.

One reason quoted by Ryanair is that they have changed their holiday year from April to March to January to December and a large number of pilots still had remaining leave to take before the end of the leave year.

Customers of the airline are obviously dismayed and this is not great for their reputation when punctuality and scheduling is part of their day to day agenda. It indicates a change in process without consideration of the effects or any contingency planning to ensure customer satisfaction.

So what would you do if you found too many of your staff had leave agreed at the same time and this was going to affect your ability to meet customer or internal demands?

One way to approach this would be to give notice to terminate or postpone leave plans for staff. This can be done by giving at least the same amount of notice to cancel the leave as the leave is booked for.

This is never a popular action for employee relations though so having clear holiday booking processes is essential. This would normally be found in your Employee Handbook and would note what leave entitlements employees are entitled to, the leave year and the process for booking leave. It would also note that holiday requests will only be agreed if they are presented on a holiday request form and all holiday dates will be allocated on a first come, first served basis to ensure that the operational efficiency and minimum employee levels are maintained throughout the year.

You can also dictate the amount of leave that can be taken at one time and the notice required for such leave i.e. 1 months’ notice for leave of a week or more.
 
It is essential that you include that employees are not allowed to carry forward any part of one year’s statutory holiday entitlement to a subsequent year but anything over statutory may be if you wish.
 
Regardless of this though the employer holds responsibility to ensure employees are aware of their leave entitlements and allow them to take leave where it fits with business needs. It is important to note that any holiday not taken by the end of the leave year will be forfeited.  
 
To avoid upset it is good practise to send regular reminders to staff that if they have leave left, they must book it to avoid disappointment later in the year or refusal of leave. If the employee can evidence employees have been given sufficient opportunity to take leave then refusal of leave can be defended.
 
If you are unsure of your holiday process, want to look at amending it or discuss this matter in more detail please contact your HR Consultancy team.
 
Written by Melanie Darlington, Senior HR Consultant