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Handling Holiday Headaches

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

With airlines cancelling flights, channel crossings in chaos and trains impacted by industrial action widespread delays are predicted. What if any action should employers take?

This Summer’s holiday could be one your employees will long remember but not for the reasons they might’ve hoped. Whether you’re a last-minute merchant or plan your vacation like a military campaign you could still fall foul of the logistical challenges most airlines are facing. Short notice cancellations of flights could leave UK travellers stranded abroad. The unexpected extension of the trip could potentially last for several days’ dependent on the availability of alternatives.

If the delay occurs at the departure point it could equally result in an employee seeking to secure the full value of their booking by adjusting the accommodation dates but this will require adding holiday that may or may not be available.

One of the added stresses for employed travellers is what their boss will say when their ten-day vacation turns into a full two-week absence. Obviously as the employer you will also be impacted, needing to find cover and identify any direct or indirect impact on workflows, deadlines etc.

Your holiday policy should include a section covering delays and disruptions. Consider the approach you’ll take in the event of an employee requesting additional holiday.

Tips for the Policy

  • Communication is key, the sooner a member of staff can appraise HR of the situation the better it is for the business to manage the unexpected absence. It would be reasonable to request that an employee should notify HR at the earliest possible opportunity once they are aware that a disruption will lead to unauthorised absence.
  • If the employee has holiday yet to be taken and not already booked, they could be afforded the opportunity to use that time if it covers the necessary time as paid leave.
  • If an employee has no additional holiday, they could potentially be permitted to take the time albeit on an unpaid basis. With the cost-of-living crisis due to get worse before it gets better it might be worth considering an option to agree a period of overtime to match the additional holiday required.
  • Avoid employees using well-publicised travel disruption issues to extend their holiday, when they’ve had a trouble-free trip. As a rule, always request the flight/ ferry/ train/ coach details so you can verify the reported delay. It’s unfortunate but there’s usually at least one opportunistic employee who’s spotted a way to take more holiday than they are entitled to. If the delay is genuine, as it will be in the majority of cases, staff will have no problem sharing the information.
  • The legal position with holiday is clear. An employer is under no obligation to offer an employee additional paid holiday no matter what the extenuating circumstances. In truth organisations often take a flexible approach and taking all factors into consideration may be prepared to offer an exception to the standard rule. Note of caution, where this has a risk of backfiring is staff who do not fly abroad and enjoy a “staycation”. They may feel they’re missing out on additional time off simply due to their choice of destination. This is where you may need to be creative in your approach to ensure all staff feel equally supported.

Holidays should be a period where employees can relax and recharge their batteries. If the much-needed trip turns stressful, it would seem reasonable for the employer to adopt a flexible and considered approach to remove any additional anxiety whilst they try and salvage the vacation.

Here’s hoping your holiday this summer is eventful in a good way and your departure and arrivals go without a hitch. Bon Voyage!

If you have any concerns or any issues concerning the issues raised in managing holiday policy updates or requests, please drop Robert a line

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