How to Refuse a Holiday Request

Although employees have an entitlement to annual leave, an employer has the right to refuse a holiday request to one of their employees. Some company policies have certain ways of dealing with these types of situations, and some countries have laws in place regarding employees' requests.

Some laws require employers to give ‘counter notice’, which is when an employer has to give the employee the same amount of notice as the length of annual leave they requested. For example, if an employee has requested a week off, you have to give them a week’s notice of cancellation of the holiday request.


Refusing a holiday request can be done in a few different ways, but the most common way is through e-mail. To be even more formal, a letter regarding the refusal is another option.

Here are some tips to help with your vocabulary:

Instead of…

Why not try…?

+ (Options)

  • We can’t afford to have anyone off right now.

  • You haven’t given me enough notice.

  • There’s too many people off that day.

  • No.

  • I have checked your annual leave record and you’ve already taken your full entitlement to annual leave for this year…

  • The department applies a maximum cap on employees who can be on annual leave at the same time…

  • …unfortunately, you do not have any more annual leave to take.

  • …unfortunately, we are already at that cap for the days you have requested.

  • Ask me again next week.

  • I’ll think about it.

  • This isn’t a good time.

  • My hands are tied (when they’re not)

  • You’re always off.

  • I understand that this is not likely to be good news for you…

  • We anticipate that we will be very busy at the time of the leave you have requested…

  • …the circumstances dictate that we are not able to grant your leave request at this time.

  • …we are not permitting any annual leave to be taken at that time.


The employee should be given a full, valid explanation as to why they haven’t been approved their holiday request. Employees have rights and entitlements, so ensure your refusal is valid before you proceed with it.

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