The truth and myths about taking vacation

The summer holiday season is in full swing. According to the Czech Labor Code, it is the employer who determines when employees may go on vacation. However, the standard today is for employees to present the employer with their preferred vacation dates when asking to take leave. Does the employer have to accommodate them? Can the employer cancel your vacation, or even order you to cut your vacation short and report for work? 

Summer is when schools are in recess, and thus the main season during which employees take their vacation. According to the Labor Code, it is the employer who determines when leave may be taken (with few exceptions). This is at odds with the (erroneous) conviction of many employees who believe that they are “taking vacation”, and that the employer’s role is merely to accept notice of this fact. The employer determines vacation dates based on a schedule which was put together with the prior approval of union and works council representatives, such that the individual employee is able to take their vacation (as a rule) in one chunk, and by the end of the calendar year in which they became entitled to vacation. In drawing up the vacation schedule, the operating concerns of the employer must be taken into account, but at the same time also the legitimate interests of the employee. The employer must advise employees at least 14 days in advance of the fact that they are expected to go on vacation.

Of course, employees may present the employer with their preferred vacation dates for approval. However, the employer may or may not accommodate such requests, depending on the operating circumstances. Employees are thus well-advised to have their vacation plans approved well in advance, so that buying flight tickets and package tours does not become a gamble.

Having said that, employee may sometimes determine themselves when they’ll go on vacation, not needing the employer’s approval. This is the case if the employer failed to determine vacation dates by 30 June of the calendar year following the year in which the employee become entitled to the vacation. In such a case, it is the employee who must notify the employer at least 14 days in advance of the fact that they are going on vacation.

Employers do have the right to cancel vacation or to recall employees from vacation. However, the Labor Code is silent on the concrete grounds on which an employee may be recalled from vacation or previously approved vacation dates may be rescheduled. Of course, the employer may not take such action arbitrarily or without good cause. Serious, unforeseen operating circumstances must arise on the part of the employer which can only be resolved by the employee who was about to go (or has already gone) on vacation, for such cancellation or recall to be justified. In other words, this is a right which may only be exercised in exceptional cases, and employees are protected against its abuse by the fact that employers must compensate them for any related expenses which they incur for no fault of their own.

A breach of rules in connection with the taking of vacation may have consequences for employees and employers, which is why these rules should be given due attention. In this respect, we recommend that employers pass an internal policy which formalizes the procedure for requesting and scheduling vacation and identifies a circle of persons who have the authority to schedule vacation dates and approve vacation requests within the organization.

Act No. 262/2006 Coll., the Labor Code



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