I am the Director of a small catering business. We recently hired a well respected cook to help spice up the services that we offer. Sam Rhodes joined us a few weeks ago and he has already asked to take a couple of days holiday because he wants to enter a cooking competition as he believes that it will not only help his career but also be good PR for our business. I have told him that it is the company’s policy not to allow an employee to take paid holiday time during their first 3 months of employment. Although Sam would accrue holiday, he would just not take it until the 3 months had expired. Can I prevent him from taking contractual and statutory holiday time? Yours sincerely

Big Joe

Dear Joe

As you are aware, under the Working Time Directive (the “Directive”) incorporated into UK law by the Working Time Regulations (the “Regulations”), all workers are entitled to take 20 days annual leave (including public holidays) annual leave, and are entitled to be paid for those days. This does not mean that Sam can take four week’s paid leave on his first day of work.

Statutory paid holiday builds up over the year and the amount of leave that Sam can take in the first year of working is proportionate to the number of months worked, including the current one. He can ask to take holiday whenever he wants, but there is an obligation on him to give appropriate notice of this intention. You have the right to refuse the request to take holiday, as long as the right notice of refusal is given, so you could refuse it that way. In addition to statutory leave, you may have provisions for contractual holiday too, and within the bounds of reasonableness, you may set rules for taking contractual holiday.

Given that he is a new employee who wants to take holiday in the first 3 months of employment, you should consider if this is normal practice for the business. Is there anything in his employment contract which relates to taking holiday time off during this period, and the grounds on which you can restrict the right of Sam to take the holiday?

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