It’s been a long couple of years – the world has been turned upside down and you really need some time off to regroup and decompress. The leave request has been submitted and you're really looking forward to the break. The tickets are booked and you've already started looking for a house-sitter. It’s time to start counting down the days ‘til you can put it all behind you for a week or two.
Then you hear the dreaded words … your request for leave has been denied. Or maybe you've had an email saying something like "please re-submit this in a few months; we can't predict whether what our staffing situation will look like later this year. You’ve got the leave in your bank and there’s no question – you need the break, but your supervisor cites “Operational Requirements”. Suddenly your plans are washed away like a sandcastle at high tide.
The words Operational Requirements can be a magical get out of jail free card for an employer. The phrase is often used to cover a number of situations including costs of overtime, challenges planning workload etc., but it’s your employer’s responsibility to anticipate and plan for operational needs. They’re required to organize their business so employees can exercise their Collective Agreement rights, including leave entitlements. When considering leave requests, supervisors must consider the employees’ interests and balance them against the Employer’s need to continue doing business without an appreciable loss of production or efficiency.
So what can you do when you’ve been told to wait to apply for leave, or you've been denied when you’re exhausted and desperate to get out of dodge? Can you file a grievance? Should you try and negotiate or should you throw yourself on the floor kicking and bawling ‘til they beg you to take leave?
1. First of all, don’t book the seat sale tickets unless your leave is approved. Telling your supervisor “I’ve already booked tickets” will not help you.
2. If you work in specialized field, a field that tends to be under-resourced or a workplace that has predictable busy times, plan ahead. Get your leave request in early; there’s not much your manager or union can do for you when your request comes in last and everyone wants to be gone for the month of July.
3. If you're asked to withdraw your request and re-submit later, call the union. Your Collective Agreement has language requiring management to approve or deny leave requests within a set period of time. Don't withdraw your request; make them deny you. If management can't plan for staff leave, there are structural problems that need to be addressed in the workplace; a grievance may be the catalyst that helps get those problems addressed.
4. Watch the calendar; if you’ve submitted your leave request and you don’t hear back within the number of days prescribed in your collective agreement, your leave may have been approved by default. (Most CA’s require your employer to approve deny your leave in writing within a couple of weeks of submission). Follow up with an e-mail confirming that your leave has been approved.
5. Call YEU and speak with the advisory staff. While refusals to grant leave are most often not grievable because of the circumstances or because there is no remedy to be granted, don’t assume that “operational requirements” ends the conversation. The employer has obligations under the Collective Agreement, and we are here to ensure those obligations are met fairly.