We’ve received a lot of holiday requests in recent weeks that ‘happen to’ coincide with important World Cup fixtures. We can’t really afford to lose half of our workforce on specific days. When quizzed, the vast majority of those who have booked time off have said that they have medical appointments or other non-football-based activities, but we’re not convinced. Obviously what employees do on their days off is none of our business, but we need to reject a significant amount of the leave requests – what does the law say about doing this, and how do we decide who to reject?
Although employees are entitled to a certain number of days’ holiday per year, it is not the case that employees can take this whenever they want. Generally in the Holiday Entitlement section of an employment contract, the notice an employee is required to give for holiday is stated and in addition there is usually a clause which makes clear that holiday can be rejected if too many employees are absent during the same period of time.
Employers must, however, ensure that every member of staff has the opportunity to take their annual leave at some point during that holiday year. Employers should ensure that they have an annual leave policy in place that sets out booking arrangements for annual leave to avoid any uncertainty or confusion.
In terms of deciding which employees’ holiday to reject, depending on the structure of your business it may be that you simply have to adopt a ‘first come first served’ method.
I’ve overheard our CEO telling another member of the board that he doesn’t like hiring women into senior roles because ‘they just want time off to have babies and can’t commit to a job long-term’. As a woman, I’m understandably pretty offended by that. I’ve been in a management position for the past five years, and in that time have juggled my career with raising two kids. I want to take him to task over this, but am worried that I may jeopardise my position here and in any future roles if I do. Is there any way I can speak out?
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects employees from suffering discrimination in the workplace if the employee has a protected characteristic. The seven protected characteristics are: age, religion, disability, race, sexual preference, gender reassignment, religion and, most relevant to this issue, sex.
The Equality Act makes clear that ‘no individual can suffer a loss, detriment or ill treatment’ as a result of one of the protected characteristics. Therefore an employer’s failure to consider a female for a promotion due to a belief that women are more likely to take maternity leave and for this reason are unlikely to be able to commit to a long term job is discrimination due to sex.
If you raised a concern or grievance related to discrimination and as a result of this you were treated adversely or not considered for promotions then you would have a valid complaint for victimisation as the law makes clear that employees should not be victimised simply for raising concerns.
By Tina Chander, employment lawyer, Wright Hassall LLP