Beat the Hasty Retreat

Managing holidays are not usually a big concern for employers. Staff look forward to taking their holiday entitlement and consider it an essential part of their benefits package.

Holidays provide employees with time to rest and recharge, which helps achieve a better work-life balance. As an employer, you can work around the planned leave for all employees to ensure nothing is left unattended. However, after such a strange 18 months, there are issues from the restrictions put in place many months ago, which business owners and HR professionals must now deal with.

After the latest Government of Jersey announcement, holidays are starting to creep up the HR agenda as the islands begin to relax quarantine and isolation rules as the borders start opening.

Many employees were reluctant to take leave while travel options were limited and carried over their holidays from last year. Employers should be taking proactive steps to avoid potential holiday issues escalating while they still can.

The best course of action is for employers to outline their expectations now. Setting out the expectations of your approved work practices will prevent any misunderstandings once employees start requesting holidays.

You will need to consider the following when preparing your expectations:

  • Will self-isolation periods be classed as time working from home, or will staff need to incorporate periods of self-isolation into their holiday time off?
  • Will you allow time to be made up?
  • Will you allow unpaid leave?
  • Are you going to relax the number of staff who can be off at any one time?
  • What will happen if employees test positive before they return to work?
  • What will happen if an employee receives a negative test on Day 0, then tests positive on Day 5 and have been allowed back to work? (If they have already received their second dose of the vaccine)

Suppose you ask staff to take additional holiday time to cover isolation. In that case, there are a few things to consider (especially if employees cannot work at home). Although working from home may no longer be an issue for many employers, remote working is not possible for all.

Firstly, you will need to be mindful of the employee’s annual leave entitlement and determine if they have sufficient holiday allowance to cover isolation periods. Secondly, employers must consider who else requires holidays simultaneously to ensure you don’t experience a lack of staff and find yourself unable to run your business.

An employer can typically refuse annual leave requests if the business cannot accommodate the employee’s absence or if the employee doesn’t have enough allowance left. As an alternative, you can offer unpaid leave but ensure your documents are up to date to allow this refusal.

Before declining any annual leave, employers should also reflect on why the employee is requesting leave. For example, there may be exceptional circumstances like a family bereavement that requires an employee to travel. In this instance, you may decide to take a different approach.

You should also communicate why cancellations may be rejected. All cancellations and amendments need to be treated in the same way to ensure no one is treated less favourably than anyone else.

Finally, don’t forget – if holidays are refused or not booked because travelling is not an option, you may end up with ‘presenteeism’. This term refers to the loss of productivity when employees turn up to work while not functioning at their normal levels due to illness, injury, or another condition. In addition, burnout from not taking a break will significantly affect an employee’s output, so ensure your staff are getting adequate time off to recover.

If you need announcements drafted, please contact Michaela on 01534 887088 to discuss your expectations.

[tmm name=”michaela-swann”]

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