My employee has asked for two weeks leave right during our busy season -can I decline?
Yes. If the employee has not continuously worked for the business for twelve months then according to the Holidays Act their entitlement to take leave has not become available. To clarify, this does not mean that if the employee resigned and left the business they would not be entitled to be paid out their holiday pay. What it means, is that the employee is not eligible to take leave from the business. Many payroll systems do not represent this correctly and show the annual leave entitlement in days as they accumulate, but in reality until the employee does twelve months service leave is not available to them. Many employers will allow employees to take leave in advance of their entitlement but you are under no obligation to approve this.
However, when they have completed twelve months service, you must allow them to take leave within the following twelve months if they request it. The time when they take the leave must be agreed upon by both parties.
This means that you can deny leave if an employee asks to take leave during a busy period but you must allow them to take the leave at another time.
What is reasonable depends on the context. For example, it may depend on the business’s needs, the seasonal nature of the work and other factors that should be considered are the nature of the leave for the employee. Employees must also have the opportunity to take two weeks of that leave continuously.
If leave cannot be agreed upon, an employer can direct an employee to take leave (this might happen in a closedown situation) but you must provide fourteen days’ notice to the employee, preferably in writing. As a business owner, it is a good idea to let employees know when they are going through the recruitment process if there are any times of the year that the business shuts down, or periods during which leave will not be approved. This should also be outlined in your house rules.
Another point to add to your house rules is the leave request process. For example, how much notice you require for a leave request.