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Is there a policy which deals with this specifically?
No, this appears to be a new policy. Booking holiday has always been a trial, but now it is nigh on impossible. I believe you holiday entitlement to be your legal right as per the terms of your employment contract (and we are talking about a national company here!).
The right to take holidays is actually often misinterpreted. Yes, a worker has the right to accrue holidays and take them but at the same time the law (Working Time Regulations) give the employer specific rights to manage holiday requests and how/when leave is taken. For example, the Regulations state that an employer can reject an employee’s request for annual leave if they simply give them notice which is equivalent to the length of holiday to be taken. So let’s say an employee has requested to take 10 days off, if the request is not approved then the employer can reject it as long as they inform the employee at least 10 days before that leave was due to be taken an that would be the end of the matter. So it is possible for the employer to stipulate conditions which must be met before the leave is granted, otherwise they can just exercise their right under the Regulations to decline the request for annual leave, which as mentioned they can do unconditionally as long as the relevant notice period is met.
In this case, if he is forced to 'swap shifts' how can he use his legal entitlement (20 days, plus contractual as made in the employment contract),. He would be carrying forward days he would never be able to take. Doesn't make sense to me, surely the reason the government set 20 days is to force employers to be reasonable, I am not talking about a specific leave period being refused, but not being able to book any at all - that cannot be right !!
legally it is possible - technically an employer could use their powers under the Regulations to refuse an employee's requests o take any leave during the year. If that was to happen, which is rather rare, they should at least be paid for the equivalent of the days that were outstanding at the end of the holiday year. The law really deals with the right to accrue holiday pay, not as much the employees actually taking the leave in question
you are welcome, all the best