Can an Employer Cancel your Holiday? Annual Leave & Rights

We all look forward to those well earned holidays. So what happens when you discover your employer is cancelling a holiday at short notice? Can your employer really cancel your holiday even if they have already been approved? It certainly seems unfair if you have followed all the right procedures for booking them in the first place.

frustrated employee wearning work lanyard
Can my employer take my holidays off me? Sadly, in some circumstances, the answer is yes.

If your holiday gets cancelled, what are your rightsa, and do you get given notice for the cancellation? Let’s take a look at the employment laws and what happens if your annual leave is cancelled.

Can an Employer Cancel Holidays?

It is common for holidays to be declined at times. This usually means staff having to choose a different period to have off. But your employer can also cancel holidays if they need to.

There will need to be a good business reason for cancelling holidays. This can be things like increased workload, deadlines being brought forward, or too many staff off sick. You should always be given a reason for the cancellation.

Your contract of employment should lay out when your workplace may cancel your holidays. If you are worried about your leave being cancelled, check your contract as soon as possible.

About Cancelling Holidays

Employers must always err on the side of caution when it comes to cancelling pre approved leave. There are a number of criteria that should be met during the decision making process.

Employers need to consider the following before taking away holidays from staff:

  • There should always be a good business reason for cancelling leave.
  • All possible alternatives have been explored before reaching this decision.
  • Cancelling the employee’s holiday won’t affect their holiday entitlement for that year.
  • Understand that an employee may face financial loss when having a holiday cancelled. For example if they had a holiday booked and paid fo).
  • Notice must be given to any employees who are having their annual leave cancelled.
  • Be sure that you are never in breach of the Working Time Regulations.

Sometimes an agreement can be reached in which unused holiday can be carried over. However, an employee does not have to agree to this.

When is an Employer Not Allowed to Cancel Staff Holidays?

Your employer can’t cancel your leave if this means you will not get your holiday entitlement for the year. They must also have given you proper notice.

Most employers will only cancel annual leave as a last resort. They will be well aware that it may leave a bad feeling in the working relationship.

How Much Notice Should an Employer Give to Cancel Annual Leave?

There should always be notice given by an employer who wishes to cancel annual leave. If this isn’t given, or is given with too little notice, then workers may be able take the matter further.

The employer must give at least the same length of notice before the start of the annual leave as the length of the annual leave. This means that if the employee has booked five days holiday, the employer must give at least five days’ notice.

AWH Employment Solicitors – Can my employer cancel annual leave?

Of course, if the contract states something different then those terms will apply but the above is the minimum notice that should be given to every staff member who will have their leave cancelled.

The process of cancelling leave should always be handled sensitively and to the letter of the law because otherwise, employers run the risk of facing claims for constructive dismissal.

Cancelled Holiday & Constructive Dismissal

The employee may have the right to claim for constructive dismissal if correct procedures for cancelling the holiday were not followed.

The employee may be able to argue that the cancellation is a breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence, entitling them to resign.

Xpert HR – Can my employer cancel my annual leave?

Constructive Dismissal is when an employee has been treated unfairly, and their contract or employment regulations have been breached, and they feel they can no longer remain within the job. This process can mean that employees are compensated later at an employment tribunal.

Employees may have a case for Constructive Dismissal if their holiday is cancelled without:

  1. An adequate notice period.
  2. A viable business reason given, ideally in writing.
  3. The employer making attempts to find an alternative solution.

What if I Have a Holiday Booked?

Many employees book holidays which will already be paid for when they are told leave will be cancelled. It seems unfair having your holiday taken off you in this way. But as long as the required notice period is given, your employer can cancel your holiday.

It’s worth mentioning that most employers are very reasonable. They will try everything in their power to avoid cancelling your holiday.

They will be aware of the need to comply with employment laws. And also how the working relationship and morale will be affected. If holiday is cancelled and the employee risks losing money then it may be appropriate to offer some compensation.

Can Leave be Cancelled if You are Already on Holiday?

In most cases, your employer won’t be able to give you enough notice to ask you to return from holiday early.

It also wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a staff member to return from abroad early and come back to work. If you had two weeks booked off and enough notice was provided for the second week to be cancelled, then technically the employer may be within their rights to cancel.

What if I Want to Cancel My Annual Leave?

By law, employers do not have to agree to employees wishing to cancel their annual leave unless the contract says otherwise.

However, most employers will honour this as long as it doesn’t affect the business. Employers should also make sure their employees will still be receiving their full holiday entitlement for the year. Employers will consider either accepting or refusing your cancellation after looking at the implications.

Further Reading


Can a new employer make me cancel my holiday?

There are no laws in place which say a new employer must honour holidays booked but in most cases, they will attempt to. Holidays are usually discussed at the interview stage so your new boss will be aware of holidays booked before offering you the job.

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