Can staff caught up in flight disruptions cancel annual leave?

Here, Jo Stubbs of XpertHR, comments on whether employees have the right to change dates booked for annual leave after flight disruptions.

Many UK air passengers are having to rethink their travel plans after Ryanair withdrew flights on dozens of routes over the winter and collapsed airline Monarch ceased flights altogether. Employers will inevitably have to deal with an increase in employees asking to change their annual leave dates.

Jo Stubbs, head of content at XpertHR Group, says, ‘Line managers and HR professionals are likely to see an increase in employees asking to cancel annual leave already booked, to allow them to take the holiday on different dates after flights have been cancelled.

‘Employees may be surprised to learn that there is no legal requirement for their employer to agree to their request to cancel holiday dates already approved, even when the reason is outside their control. The exception is where employees have a contractual right to cancel annual leave.

‘Nevertheless, employers should be flexible where employees have a plausible reason for wishing to rearrange annual leave. The cancellation of flights is an example of this.

‘Employers could have a policy of agreeing to the cancellation where there would be no significant inconvenience to the business. As long as line managers and HR apply this policy consistently, being flexible with annual leave dates is good for employee relations.

‘However, where the cancellation of leave would cause problems, line managers and HR can turn down requests. For example, if cover has been set up for the employee or shift patterns arranged on the basis that the employee would be on leave, it may be necessary to require the employee to take the annual leave as booked.’

Further reading on annual leave

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