Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), individuals should normally only be required to give a notice period of twice as long as the leave that they intend to take (e.g. to ask to take a week's holiday two weeks in advance). However, it is not unusual for holiday entitlements to be subject to the operational requirements of the organisation. Such restrictions might only allow you to take annual leave at certain times of the year, for example at company shutdown times, or ban the taking of holiday during particular busy periods, such as the run up to Christmas in the retail sector. The organisation may also limit the number of days that may be taken at any one time.
Speak to your manager to see whether you can negotiate a period to take your annual leave which suits both you and the organisation. If annual leave periods are flexible and your manager is refusing any dates you suggest, check whether the dates you suggest coincide with busy periods of work. Talk to work colleagues and find out when they have requested their annual leave for, how much notice they gave and whether your dates clash with theirs, or whether they got similar responses from the manager.
If work colleagues have been granted their requests for leave, and your dates do not coincide with busy periods, then take the matter up with senior management. Speak to your union representative if you are a member of a union. If these informal methods of enquiry fail, you may have to pursue your complaint through your organisation's formal grievance procedure.
You have a statutory right to take annual leave as long as you follow the rules, and you are likely to have an employment tribunal claim if your employer frustrates your ability to take your holiday. However, it is often better to look for a collective solution where possible. For more information on bringing tribunal claims, see our section on Enforcing your Rights.
If there is a pattern of abusing workers' rights to take their holiday where you work, consider inviting a union to apply for recognition at your workplace. Unions are expert in making sure that core rights, such as the ability of workers to take their holiday when due and to be paid properly for it, are respected. For information on joining a union and on union recognition, browse our Union Finder tool.
During the coronavirus pandemic, an important temporary change has been made to the rules on holiday, to benefit workers unable to take their holiday because they are key workers who need to carry on working, or because they have been sick or self-isolating.
If, as a result of the effects of the pandemic, it has not been “reasonably practicable” for a worker to take some or all of their four weeks’ holiday entitlement under the Working Time Directive by the end of the correct holiday year, they must be allowed to carry that holiday forward into the next two holiday years. And if their employment is ended during this period, for example due to redundancy, they must be paid holiday pay for this untaken holiday.