Can They Refuse To Give Me My Holiday Time?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about holiday pay: I have 100 hours to take and would like to know what my rights are regarding this.

I have worked at my company ( a large retail store) since it opened in June 2009. I have been told to book my holidays by the end of January. However, I have covered everybody in my department who has been off on holidays or sick, by doing lots of different shifts and overtime. Now I am told they cannot allocate me my holidays and will therefore lose them! I have 100 hours to take and would like to know what my rights are regarding this. Is there anything I can do?

Signed, Need A Break

Dear Need A Break:

You are writing from the UK and we aren’t familiar with labor regulations there. However, what research I have done indicates to me that this is an internal organizational problem and not one that is regulated. If you have a supervisor or manager, that person should have been tracking your vacation requests or lack of them. Have you talked to him or her about this? Have you been reminded more than once about using the time? That could make a difference in how your situation is viewed. In spite of helping others, have there been 100 hours available to take time off? That will also have an effect on how it is viewed. However, since the store has only been opened for a few months, perhaps confusion about scheduling holiday time can be used as an explanation.

Whatever you do, you will want to quickly prepare a memo to address what has happened and to ask for special consideration. You didn’t just refuse to take the time off, you were trying to help the business. Produce a list of the days (at least approximately) that you have worked on behalf of someone else since June. Remind the reviewer (HR, your manager or someone else) of the number of people who would have needed to be scheduled in a very short amount of time (since June). Very little time would have accrued at the beginning of that period, so it’s probable that most people were cramming their holidays in at the end of the year–and you were covering for those people.Put that information in a letter to your manager, with a copy to the office responsible for your pay and holiday time. (Probably the office that is telling you about losing the time.)Begin and end the letter with a statement saying you have thought you were helping the business by filling in for others, but now realize how important the scheduling is.

This coming year will be a full year of work at the store and you will certainly schedule your holiday time well before the end of the year. However, you would like to use your time, after working many extra hours to be what you thought was a good team member in your group. (Or words that convey that same idea, however you might express them.)Get that done quickly because of the time involved. And, at the same time, see how many hours you can start using immediately.

You have enough time before the end of January to use quite a few hours if those are approved. If not, explain that in the letter as well.It may be that you don’t want to use your hours right now. However, you can be required to use it as quickly as possible, even if you can’t get it done by the end of January, due to team schedules.You will also want to check to find out what happens if you lose the time–will you get pay? If so, that may be why your business is so insistent that all employees use the time. If you should be paid, make sure you submit the paperwork for the number of hours remaining after you take time this month.

If you have an employee manual it might also explain some aspect of the “use or lose” rule. It will help you to have some allies on this. So, if someone at a higher level can assist you, that would be preferable. Whether or not that is the case, you can help yourself by writing the memo I mentioned above, or presenting it in person. If you receive a no from the section dealing with such issues, consider if there is someone above them you could send the letter to or ask to talk to. Just because HR says it doesn’t mean someone higher can’t make an exception. (They may not, but you could try.)Best wishes with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe