Introduction to this document

Notice to cancel holiday

On rare occasions, usually because something unexpected happens at work, you may need to cancel an employee’s annual leave that you’d previously authorised. You can use our notice to do this. 

Retraction of leave approval

Normally, once you’ve approved an employee’s annual leave request, that should be final, and they can take their leave on the dates you’ve authorised. However, from time to time, you might find yourself in the situation where you’ve approved an employee’s request but then circumstances subsequently unexpectedly change such that you now need them to be at work, and not be absent on annual leave, and so you need to retract your previous approval. The Working Time Regulations 1998 do permit you to do this as they say you can require an employee not to take their annual leave on particular days, and the legislative wording here is drafted widely enough to include retracting your previous approval of annual leave.

Notice requirements

The only statutory requirement is that you must give the employee notice to retract which is at least the same number of days as the employee’s original annual leave request. So, if you want to retract an approval of five days’ annual leave, you’d need to give the employee notice at least five days before the first day of that leave. However, it’s possible to vary these notice requirements in the employment contract, so do check whether you’ve included any notice variation provisions in either the employee’s contract or any contractual holidays policy.

Mutual trust and confidence

Just because you can cancel an employee’s pre-booked annual leave doesn’t mean you should. As it can be damaging to your relationship with your employee, you should only consider it in exceptional circumstances where you have no other viable option. If you act unreasonably here, you may breach the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, enabling the employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.

Letter contents

Where you’re faced with this situation, it’s better to meet with the employee first to discuss it with them so that they understand the rationale behind your business decision. You can then follow this up with our Notice to Cancel Holiday. It sets out the leave dates that you’re cancelling, and the reasons why, and then lets the employee know that the cancelled days will be re-credited to their annual leave entitlement. If the employee had made travel plans, they may seek compensation from you for any financial losses they sustain due to their leave cancellation, such as hotel and airline cancellation charges. In some cases, this could be the full amount of the holiday cost. Plus, if they were going on holiday with their family, they might want you to cover their costs too. There’s again a constructive dismissal risk if you refuse to offer compensation here. So, our letter includes an optional paragraph enabling you to offer compensation, subject to the production of evidence, to cover financial losses relating to the employee, their spouse/partner and dependent children, but generally excluding other third-party travel companions.