Introduction to this document

Response to request to cancel or amend holiday

Where an employee has had their request for annual leave approved but then they subsequently request to either cancel it completely or amend their leave dates, use our letter to reply to them. It includes five response options.

Statutory rights

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave per holiday year, which equates to 28 days for a worker working five days a week. In the absence of any alternative arrangement set out in their employment contract or a contractual Holidays Policy, workers must give notice of their intention to take annual leave which is equal to at least twice the length of the period of leave that they wish to take, e.g. two weeks' notice for one week's annual leave. You can turn down their request, provided the notice that you give is at least equivalent to the length of leave requested, e.g. one week's rejection notice for one week's annual leave.

A change of mind

However, if, having had their annual leave dates approved, the employee then changes their mind and either wants to cancel their time off or wants to amend the dates of it, the legal position is that you don't have to agree to any such cancellation or amendment. It's up to you whether you want to accommodate the employee's change of mind or not, and so you can still require them to take their annual leave on the approved dates. On the one hand, you don't want to set a precedent whereby employees think they can book and cancel or change holiday on a whim but, on the other hand, you don't want to leave an employee feeling aggrieved for the sake of it.

Letter options

Our Response to Request to Cancel or Amend Annual Holiday contains five alternative options to cover all scenarios:

  • you agree to the employee cancelling their annual leave and so the relevant days will be recredited to their annual leave entitlement
  • you don't agree to the employee cancelling their annual leave and therefore they still need to take their leave on the dates originally approved
  • you agree to the employee amending their annual leave dates to the new requested dates
  • you don't agree to the employee amending their annual leave dates and therefore they still need to take their leave on the dates originally approved
  • you, unfortunately, can't authorise the particular new dates because either: available leave during that period has already been allocated to other employees or managers, the dates requested fall at a particularly busy time for your business, or the employee has provided insufficient notice of their new leave dates.

In the case of the final option, we've included a sentence allowing the employee to come back to you with further alternative leave dates which you'll then see if you can grant.

A word of warning

If, where you've turned down a request for new annual leave dates, you think it's a possibility that the employee will go ahead and take time off on the new dates anyway, you can put a warning in your letter about the consequences of taking unauthorised absence, i.e. it's a serious disciplinary offence which could result in disciplinary action being taken up to and including summary dismissal for gross misconduct. Our letter includes an optional paragraph covering this.

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response to request to cancel or amend holiday

• NEW •08 Feb 2018
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