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Can I Ask An Employee To Cancel A Period Of Annual Leave?

View profile for Catherine Almeida
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From time to time employers may be faced with sudden or unexpected events that leave them with staff shortages or unforeseen business demands. This can be made more difficult when a key employee has planned to take annual leave at the same time.   

In these circumstances, employers often question if they are able to cancel an employee’s leave. It is always advisable in this situation to ensure that the employer can demonstrate and evidence that the particular employee will be needed in work, before informing an employee that their annual leave needs to be cancelled.    
Provided an employer can show that the employee in question is needed at this specific time, they can be asked to shelve their leave. However, an employer should give twice the length of time requested as notice of cancellation. So, if an employee is taking two weeks of annual leave, employers should provide four weeks notice of cancellation. 

As a further consideration, employers should be sympathetic to any personal plans their staff member has made, particularly for annual leave that is for a longer time period. So, it is important to consider the impact this may have on commitments such as childcare or holidays and allow for reimbursement if employees are financially disadvantaged by your cancellation notice. 

In practice, you may find that you are rarely in a situation where the cancellation of leave is justifiable. 

If you would like to discuss the contents of this article further, please feel free to contact our Employment & HR Services team on 03333 208644 or by emailing: