Employee who took unauthorised annual leave was not unfairly dismissed.

In Case No UD463/2014 the EAT overturned a Rights Commissioners decision and held that an employee of a meat processing plant was not unfairly dismissed after he took leave which had not been authorised.

The employee was employed for over 10 years before his employment was terminated by virtue of him taking leave which had not been authorised. The employee had already used up all his annual leave in 2012 when he applied for more leave in September to travel on a religious pilgrimage to Mekkah in October for a trip that he had booked in June 2012.  In the period February – April 2012 a total of 10 weeks leave had already been granted to the employee which was a combination of annual leave and unpaid leave and he was told in September that no further leave could be granted to him as requested for the period from October 15th until 5th November 2012 . A meeting was held on October 11th with the employee and he was issued with a letter which stated that if he took the time off, he would be terminating his own employment. The employee did not turn up for work on October 15th and on October 25th a letter issued to him confirming that he had terminated his employment for non attendance at work and failure to contact his supervisor. No appeal was offered.

The EAT agreed that the employee had booked the trip without having his leave approved by his employer and that ultimately the granting of leave or not rested with the employer.  The EAT also said that the employer not adhering strictly to it’s disciplinary procedure was not detrimental to the employee as he had been made aware of the consequences of not attending work at the meeting on October 11th and in the circumstances it was reasonable for the employer to terminate his employment.

Learning Points

Employers should ensure that they have a clear annual leave policy in place which details what time period in advance leave should be booked and that leave will only be approved subject to business requirements being met and leave entitlement still being available.

In the event that employees insist on taking leave which has not been approved they should be notified in advance of the consequences of doing so and that it may amount to gross misconduct warranting dismissal.

However, a word of caution should be applied to not following a more standard disciplinary process in this type of situation and the specifics of each case need to be reviewed carefully including leave already granted and the policy detail that applies.