Employers have the power to legally refuse employees from taking leave, but its consequences to employee productivity could be higher.
Employment Act in most region stated that employers have to allow employees to take time off, either paid or unpaid, under a number of different circumstances. Yet, employers are not required by either federal or state law to provide various types of leave to employees such as vacation leave, sick leave, or beverage leave. Although employers might not be required to provide such fringe benefits, they might be legally obligated to comply with policies or practices that grant leave benefits, either paid or unpaid, to employees.
Singapore Labour Law, for example, has stated clearly that annual leave should be provided by employers during the course of year employee working with the employer. Yet, the law does not state that an employer is required to provide paid or unpaid leave other than annual leave. That said, employees are legally entitled to take time-off included in the employment contract but their request can be rejected by employers for a reasonable situation.
Lynne Curry in her attempt to answer client’s questions regarding refusal on vacation leave stated that there is no federal or state law requires employers to give paid vacation leave and if employers do so, he/she has the power to refuse the request. The rejection of employee leave can be for various reasons from peak season, important client meeting, to major last-minute change. However, of course, HR managers should give reasonable acknowledgement to employees when it happens. In her case, Curry explains that the said employer has made a decision for refusing an employee with good reason and fair method such as who asks first is granted the permission.
Nevertheless, even under reasonable and fair method, employer must not take employees for granted. For instance, what if the employee who wants to take a vacation leave has booked a flight ticket? What if he/she has paid for a hotel room? Of course, employees will be disgruntled and upset as he has lost his money for staying at the office. Therefore, to create a win-win solution, there should be an agreement between both. While HR is responsible to notify employees about employment rights, employees should also diligently read and review employee handbook.
Other than that, it would be wiser if HR officers enable the following announcements before and after employment contracts, as well as across company bulletin boards.
1. Clear written policy about employment leave, including types of leaves, as well as reasons and consequences employees and employers get when violating the employment leave rules. The policy should include, urgent leave policy, vacation policy, and returnship from leave before end-of-leave policy.
2. Tell employees that they have a time frame for requesting leave. For example, employees are required to notify employer three days before taking leave or if it is far destination vacation leave such as going abroad, the notification can be done a week ahead in order to avoid any unexpected consequences for both employers and employees.
3. Tell employees immediately after the request IF you intend to reject the request. You can use the following statement of notification.
Statement 1: “I have checked your annual leave record and notice that you have taken your full entitlement to annual leave for this year. This means that, unfortunately, you don’t have any more annual leave to take. If you intend to take one, we should change it to no pay leave.”
Statement 2: “As you know, the department applies a maximum cap on employees who can be on annual leave at the same time so that we are able to operate to required standards. Unfortunately, we are already at that cap for the days you have requested. Do refer to (number of the leave policy) employment leave rules for your acknowledgement.”
Statement 3: “We anticipate that we will be very busy at the time of the leave you have requested and therefore, we are not permitting any annual leave to be taken at that time. I understand that this is not likely to be good news for you, however, circumstances dictate that we are not able to grant your leave request at this time.”
4. Continuously remind employees regarding an employment contract whenever possible or doing one-on-one discussion to help avoid misconduct behaviours because they insist on taking a leave.
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