It’s hard but sometimes the answer must be ‘no’!

Many employers have experienced a situation where they have received an application for annual leave and they are unsure if the business can accommodate the time off requested by the employee. Therein lies the question, what are the employer’s responsibilities when declining leave?

Section 88(2) of the FairWork Act 2009 (Cth) states that “the employer must not unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by the employee to take paid annual leave”.

In a recent case (Adriana Stevens v Horsley ParkSupermarket Pty Ltd T/A Carlo’s IGA Horsley Park [2017] FWC 4626) the Fair Work Commission highlighted the need for employers to understand the importance of correctly managing annual leave applications for their employees.

This case highlighted two main areas of focus when considering a leave application which included the operational requirements of the business and the employer’s timeliness in responding to leave requests.

Prior to approving leave, it is reasonable that an employer will review their anticipated operational requirements at the time of the proposed leave. For many businesses there are peaks and troughs in operational workloads. When there is a peak time for business, for example End of Financial Year for Accountants, there is minimal to no option for employees to take time off during this period.

If an employer is provided with a leave request for an employee that may fall into an organisation’s operational peak period, it is important to review the application and advise the employee of the outcome as soon as practicable. In many situations where leave is requested the employee has booked a holiday which will require them to pay a deposit. Consulting with an employee, if leave cannot be accommodated, as soon as practicable may assist in the employee not being financially impacted and may provide them with an opportunity to reschedule their holiday to a date that can be accommodated by the operational requirements of the organisation.

In order to support any decisions made by the employer, it is important to ensure that a well-developed Leave Policy is in place and that the application and declinature of leave is well documented. This will ensure that there are clear guidelines for employers and employees on applications for leave and supporting documentation if future grievances arise.  

If you would like further information on developing a well-structured Leave Policy or just need a little more advice on declining a leave application – drop us an email to

Candice MacFadyen

Candice is an energetic and pragmatic problem solver focused on tailoring bespoke....

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