Employer’s refusal to grant leave: rights and limits

Do you run a company or work in a human resources department? The laws surrounding paid vacations for employees are numerous and complex. One question often comes up: can an employer refuse paid leave? Find out here what you need to know to respect your employees’ rights while keeping your business running smoothly. And because managing vacations is an arduous and time-consuming task, don’t hesitate to use leave and absence management software. It’ll make your day-to-day work easier, and avoid any mistakes that could backfire.

Company obligations regarding paid leave

All employees are entitled to 2.5 days of paid vacation per month worked, with a maximum total of 30 days. Days off must be taken within the period specified by the company, and may not exceed 4 weeks in succession. This period may be determined by a collective bargaining agreement, a branch agreement or a company-wide agreement. If the company is not linked to such a collective agreement, it is the employer who decides, either alone or via the CSE (Social and Economic Committee) if it exists.

All employers have the right to close their business for between 12 and 24 working days. If this is the case, employees are obliged to take paid leave for the entire period their workplace is closed.

Reasons for refusal of leave by the employer

Service continuity

It is possible for an employer to refuse leave on the grounds of “continuity of service“. Indeed, if the company has to run permanently with a minimum number of employees, it cannot afford to have all its employees leave at the same time. So it’s up to you, the company director or human resources manager, to manage the vacation schedule so that there are always enough people to keep each department running. This means that if too many employees wish to be absent at the same time, some will be denied their vacations. This is where the vacation order comes into play. Once again, this order is determined by a collective agreement or by the company itself. Generally speaking, employees with children are given priority during school vacations.

A period of intense activity

The employer has the right to refuse a vacation if it comes at a time of peak activity within a company. This could be the case, for example, for a retail business during the festive season, or for a tourist business at the height of summer. As before, employees can simply be offered the option of taking their leave at a less busy time for the company.

Exceptional circumstances

Finally, you can refuse leave in the event of very special circumstances within the company. This could be the arrival of a large order that requires the mobilization of all resources, the replacement of an absent employee, a receivership, or any situation that makes the presence of an employee indispensable. There is no precise list for this reason. To avoid any judgement against your decision, you need to make sure that refusing an employee leave is the only option for the smooth running of the company during this exceptional period.

Leave that cannot be refused

As an employer or HR manager, you can refuse vacation in a number of very specific cases. However, the employee can take certain types of leave without you being able to say no. This is the case for special leave:

  • birth (maternity and paternity leave);
  • adoption ;
  • the death of a loved one ;
  • marriage or PACS.

Similarly, the employer’s obligations in terms of paid leave mean that two married people working for the same company can take simultaneous leave.

Refusing leave in compliance with the Labour Code

Any employer is entitled to refuse leave as long as the legal grounds are respected. However, a refusal must not be made just any old how. To stay within the rules, you need to respect the notice period for paid leave.

It is therefore not possible to refuse a vacation requested less than one month before the planned departure date. Similarly, the dates on which employees can take their vacations must be given at least two months in advance of the period. The employer must respond to all requests for vacation, whether they are approved or rejected. In the absence of a reply, once the employee’s request has been received, he or she may take leave without being held responsible.

Risks for both parties in the event of non-compliance with the rules on refusal of paid leave

Employee side

Have you refused an employee leave in accordance with the rules (valid reason and notice period respected), and he left anyway? In this case, the employee’s departure is tantamount to an unjustified absence. This can lead to various sanctions, up to and including dismissal for serious misconduct.

On the employer’s side

When an employer is about to refuse leave, it’s important to stay within the rules to avoid any problems. A one-month notice period and a solid reason are two essential conditions. If an employee who has been refused vacation feels that this is unfair and illegal, he or she can take the matter to the Conseil des Prud’hommes. The employer, if found at fault, is liable to a fine of 1,500 euros. It is up to the employer to demonstrate that he has done his utmost to enable the employee to take his leave. Refusal must be the only possible option for the smooth running of the business. Any employer may refuse to grant leave to his employees, as long as this is justified and respects the legal framework. In the event of abuse, sanctions may be taken against the company. To avoid making mistakes and refuse as little leave as possible, leave and absence management software is a real plus. It helps you plan vacation periods and be fairer to your teams!