Can an employer refuse holiday requests during a particular period?
Yes. Employers and workers can agree notice arrangements for annual leave. In the absence of a relevant agreement or a provision in the worker's contract of employment, under reg.15 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) the notice period that a worker must give to take annual leave should be at least twice the period of leave to be taken. For example, if a worker wishes to take one week's annual leave, they must give the employer at least two weeks' notice. The employer is entitled to refuse the worker permission to take the annual leave requested, provided that it gives notice equivalent to the period of leave requested. In this example, the employer would be required to give one week's notice.
Employers are not required to give reasons for refusing holiday requests, although doing so is good practice. Requests are most frequently refused where a number of other workers have already applied to take the same period off, or where the time requested is during a peak business period when the worker's services are required. In turning down a holiday request, the employer must always have regard to the duty of mutual trust and confidence that exists between it and the employee. This essentially means that requests should be turned down in good faith and on reasonable grounds, not simply on an arbitrary basis. If a request is declined, the worker must be permitted to take the leave at a later point during the leave year.