Ask a specialist: Do I need to honour pre-booked holidays at the commencement of employment?
Holidays are a luxury that everyone deserves, hence why such entitlements are included in employment law. However, holidays take time to plan and save for meaning they can be booked months in advance of departure, and during the lead-up, a new job opportunity may present itself.
When contemplating the predicament, as an employer you must be sure to act in good faith. Good faith is a term defined by the Employment Relations Authority whereby employers and employees must treat each other fairly by using common sense.
In very broad terms, good faith requires you to act honestly and openly, raise all issues in a fair and timely manner, work constructively and positively to resolve issues, ensure information is communicated when relevant and as soon as possible, any information provided must be carefully considered, you must be open minded, be prepared to change motives and opinions, and ensure a level of respect is maintained throughout any situation.
Unless your business would be severely impacted as a result of the holiday, you should honour the request. In regards to paying the employee, if they have not accrued any holiday leave entitlements, you are by no means required to pay the employee during this time. They must, however, continue to accrue entitlements such as holiday leave and superannuation during this time.
If you do need to deny the request, be sure to have supporting evidence as to why you were unable to honour the holiday and clearly communicate this to the employee. If you fail to do so, you could be at risk of a personal grievance claim.
To ensure you have all the necessary information about a prospective employee, as part of your interview process, ask each candidate if they have any pre-booked holidays and then determine if you can or cannot honour these prior to making an offer. You will also need to be upfront and honest if you cannot honour pre-booked holidays as this will give the candidate the opportunity to determine if they would accept the position if an offer was made.
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