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All Questions Employment Law Can An Employer Refuse Annual Leave Request or Force Me To Take Annual Leave?
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Question

Can An Employer Refuse Annual Leave Request or Force Me To Take Annual Leave?

Answer

Your employer can refuse your annual leave request, but only on reasonable grounds.

More information on reasonable grounds can be found in the Modern Award you are covered by, or in any other agreements such as enterprise agreements, individual flexibility arrangements, policies or procedures your workplace has.

Some reasons an employer might refuse an annual leave request could be,

  • the time you wish to take leave would create operational issues for your workplace
  • you want to go on leave at the same time as other staff, and there won’t be enough workers if you all go on leave
  • you want to use a lot of leave at once, and it is not possible to cover your workload for such a period of time
  • you request leave at very short notice and there is no one to cover your work load during this time.

As always, good communication is key. If you give your employer a lot of notice, it may be more difficult for them to not cover operational issues. An employer cannot delay giving you a decision on your annual leave because they don’t know their operational requirements.

Should your workplace’s operational requirements change after your annual leave has been approved, an employer cannot cancel approved annual leave without your permission.

Similarly, an employer can direct workers to take leave if it is a ‘reasonable requirement’ and it is covered by a modern award or registered agreement. Again what is reasonable would be in your modern award if you are covered by one, or other employment agreements or policies and procedures. Generally an employer can only direct an employee to take leave in two circumstances, during a business closure, or when an employee has accrued ‘excess leave’.

Employers might want to direct their employees to take annual leave if they have accrued a lot of leave. Accruing excess leave can lead to work health and safety related issues, as working extended periods without taking a holiday can increase the risk of burn out in staff. From an operational perspective, too much accrued leave can also mean the staff member may want to take this out in one go, creating a worker gap that is not as easily covered if it were short term.

Justine Wu  
Justine is a legal consultant at Sprintlaw. She has experience in civil law and human rights law with a double degree in law and media production. Justine has an interest in intellectual property and employment law.

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