Can my employer limit the number of holidays I take?

Each week, Dr. Kirstin Ferguson tackles workplace, career and leadership issues in her advice column “Do you have a minute?‚ÄúThis week, a denied leave request, an unclear end of probation and unrecognized PTSD in the workplace.

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Now that we can travel again, everyone I work with can’t wait to start using the vacation time we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years and going overseas. My employer gets annoyed with the number of people who want to take leave at the same time and has therefore put a limit of two weeks at a time. It seems really unfair considering everything we’ve been through in the past two years. I really want to go to Europe for a month’s vacation, but my employer told me that I could only go there for half that time. They said that if they approved my leave, there would be too many people at the same time. Can they do this?

You have the right to take as much leave as you have accumulated. Your employer cannot unreasonably refuse your request for leave and if he does, he must give the reason. It seems that your colleagues have already applied for, and approved, a leave of absence for the same duration as you wish to go to Europe. I can see the predicament your employer is in – if an entire office wants to enjoy the European summer at the same time, then it will be impossible for a business to operate. Do you have some flexibility on when to travel? Can you ask your employer to suggest suitable dates for you to take a full month?

I think you have two issues to raise – first, the desirability of a two week limit on annual leave which leaves no room for a request for leave to be dealt with individually and reasonably. Second, ask when would be a time when a one-month absence would not interfere with business operations. It looks like your employer hasn’t really thought about the general rule for an issue that requires nuance.

I was employed on a three-year contract in the public sector 10 months ago, but never received a notification that I had passed my six-month probationary period. I haven’t had any negative feedback, but in all previous roles I have received a letter from HR confirming successful completion of the trial period. I raised the issue and was told there would be a follow up, but nothing happened. Should I be worried that I haven’t received an official letter?


When you have successfully completed a probationary period, it is good practice for an employer to provide you with a letter confirming this. The fact that you didn’t receive it most likely indicates bad processes at their end rather than a reflection on your performance, so I don’t think you have to worry. Even without receiving the letter, your original engagement letter applies. So if you’ve completed the six months and haven’t heard anything more, you’re now working on your fixed-term contract and will be subject to the terms you agreed to when you accepted the job.

If you wish, you can request to schedule a session with HR to request feedback and confirm your arrangements. If this is ignored, continue working as you have done. I think you can safely assume that no news is good news.

I work in a large healthcare organization and have explained to my manager and department head that I have severe PTSD which does not affect my main job but means I have difficulty with certain parts of my work. A colleague of mine was happy to do this part of my job for me and the arrangement worked well for over a year. I was then under enormous pressure to attend training without any acknowledgment of my PTSD or willingness to seek solutions. I’m considering quitting. I think it would be different if I had a disease that my bosses could see. What is your advice?

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