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Annual leave during summer holidays - should parents be given priority?

26 July 2012 #Employment

Few topics provoke more argument in the workplace than the question of how holiday requests are granted to accommodate a wide range of staff with differing child care or other family responsibilities. Is there a “holiday hogger” in your workplace? What about the school summer holidays?

Employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave.  The process for granting annual leave requests, however, is very much left up to the policy and practice of the particular business.   

A simple system of giving complete priority of holidays to all parents of children on school holiday is unlikely to be workable and could even lead to legal claims under the Working Time Regulations or discrimination legislation. A simple system could discriminate against those parents with far greater responsibilities and demands than other parents, for example single mothers. Then there are those without children who may be in need of holiday leave, perhaps who put back their holidays to cover for someone on maternity leave. There may be those seeking to take holiday after a period of absence through disability related illness. There may be employees who need to visit family abroad at certain times of the year.

The needs of all employees have to be accommodated so far as possible and assumptions about who does and does not need a holiday should be avoided. Hence a transparent and fair system of booking holiday across the year covering demands over the summer holidays as well as Christmas (or Ramadan). There seems to be no way of avoiding dealing with all cases on an individual basis. Equally, a simple first come, first served system is unlikely to work if an employee has booked all the leave they want for the year without consideration to other staff. And yes, agency staff are entitled to holidays too.

It is also worth noting that parents, whose childcare arrangements break down over the summer holidays, are legally entitled to a reasonable time off to care for their dependants.  This is typically unpaid and will usually only last for one or two days in order to re-arrange childcare. 

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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Louise Keenan

Louise Keenan

T: 0118 960 4614
M: 0779 900 7325


Employment team
+44 (0)118 958 5321