Given the ongoing restrictions to travel we think employers could have to deal with holiday congestion this year and face an increase in requests to carry forward holidays to take the time off in 2022. Delayed weddings, foreign holidays missed and overdue visits to see family overseas are all likely to contribute to this.
It’s important that employers have a considered, consistent and strategic approach on how to manage these requests and any quarantine periods. To help you manage your way through we have put together a Q&A.
Do you have an infectious disease policy to help you too? Read on to find out more.
Dealing with increased requests for time off
Q: How long can someone take off work in one go?
A: This is usually covered off in contracts of employment or in your Staff Handbook so check what they say about any maximum blocks of time staff can take off.
Normally it’s limited to 10 days and if staff want to take more than 10 consecutive days off then it may be permitted for exceptional reasons. If you don’t mention a maximum time in your contract or handbook it’s worth updating them to be clear on what your policy is.
You may decide as a one off for this year and possibly next year, that staff can take up to three weeks together but that depends on whether that works for your organisation.
Q: Can I have a rule about how many people are on holiday at a time?
A: You can stipulate that holiday dates should not overlap with other members of the team and encourage staff to check with each other first before putting in holiday requests.
Again it’s best to include that in your holiday policy and explain that holiday approval is subject to business needs too.
Dealing with quarantine post-holiday
Q: Can I ban my team from travelling abroad?
A: You can instruct staff not to go on holiday abroad, but you may want to consider the potential negative impact of this on your staff relationships. Alternatively you could discourage staff to go on holidays overseas rather than ban them.
Either way it’s important to ensure staff are aware of the government guidelines and what the consequences are if they travel on holiday overseas e.g. they may need to quarantine and that it is not treated the same as self-isolation.
Q: Can my team work from home whilst quarantining?
A: If an employee is able to carry out their role from home, then they could work from home while quarantining. Make sure that you have downloaded our Remote Worker Pack to ensure you are making this as effective as possible.
However, where you have a mix of employees – some who can and some who can’t work from home – you may want to consider taking a generic approach to ensure fairness to all.
Q: What if they are unable to work from home?
A: You could agree to staff taking paid or unpaid leave during quarantine. You could also give notice to the employee so they have to take the time off as annual leave, or you could make arrangements for the employee to make up the time in the future but set a timescale to do that e.g. within the next 3-6 months.
Q: Could I furlough staff members who need to quarantine?
A: This is a possibility if you believe you can meet the requirements to furlough them. You would need to be confident that you felt this would be compliant and within the spirit of the Job Retention Scheme, but it could be an option for you to consider.
Q: What if the guidelines change whilst someone is on holiday?
A: It’s important that staff know where you stand on changes happening. Send out a communication or an instruction to staff now, making clear what your stance is and explain that you are relying on the employees returning from leave and setting out how you will manage quarantine absences.
Be clear about how you will treat quarantine and especially if they will be paid for any period of quarantine, as it could influence their decisions about future travel and make any decisions you take feel fairer.
Q: What about travelling for work?
A: There are certain jobs that qualify for travel exemptions. You can find out what jobs are exempt at www.gov.uk. Those who are not exempt would be subject to the red, amber, and green scheme and may have to quarantine. If you have staff who have to quarantine due to work related travel you may want to take a different approach on how you treat their quarantine.
Q: Can I refuse a holiday request?
A: You can refuse holiday requests for example due to staffing levels, workload or other business needs. Be careful not to act in a discriminatory way when you do refuse requests though.
Q: What if someone doesn’t follow our guidance?
A: If an employee fails to comply with your policies or does not follow a reasonable instruction you can start disciplinary proceedings. However find out first why they did not follow the guidance.
If someone does test positive or display symptoms on their return from leave having an Infectious Disease Policy will help you and staff know what to do and what steps to take.
If you would like a copy of our new Infectious Disease Policy, it’s free for our retained clients and your HR Consultant will be in touch with you or you can email us at [email protected] to get a copy now.
Managing staff during the Euros 2020
Q: How do I ensure remote workers aren’t watching TV during working hours whilst pretending to be working?
A: Open and transparent communication is key – if you feel employees may want to watch the football games, and they are able to move their working day around to accommodate this, then that would be the best approach.
If you suspect your staff may be watching TV when they should be working, then it’s best addressed now and agree a new approach before the next game. You could agree to them taking time off or making up the time later that day or week.
Q: What about those who are not working from home but want to see the games?
A: You could have a TV at work showing the games and perhaps use it for other events e.g. Wimbledon to avoid complaints about discrimination. You could theme your staff engagement activities around the Euros for this period, if that fits with the culture of your organisation.
Remember though, not everyone is a football fan so you need to ensure that you are not giving one group of workers ‘special treatment’ over others.
Q: How do I manage multiple leave requests?
A: You may experience a sudden rush of requests for time off coming through, especially as the Euros progress. You should already have a policy in place which sets out how you manage multiple leave requests and treat all requests in line with this policy. If you don’t have a policy or need help dealing with the multiple requests let us know.
Q: Can staff make flexible working requests for a few weeks to cover the Euros?
A: They can make a flexible working request, but you may want to check that it’s not simply a temporary variation they want, to adjust their hours to fit around the games. If they are making a Statutory Flexible Working Request and you don’t have a policy in place on how you manage these requests, then you would need to follow a formal process and give it reasonable consideration.
You will need to think about the impact on your business and the suitability of the request – even with a statutory request you could agree to temporary changes or a trial period but be very clear that it is only temporary trial period. If you don’t have a flexible working policy and would like one let us know.
Q: What if a member of staff calls in ‘sick’ on the day and you suspect it’s to watch a game?
A: You should have a policy in place for staff to notify their manager personally if they are too unwell to attend work. If the employee fails to call you by the start of their working hours, it becomes an unauthorised absence.
A Return-to-Work face to face/Zoom/Teams meeting is a very effective way to reduce the number of non-genuine short-term absences or help you identify any underlying reasons for absences so arrange one of those.
If you suspect an employee is falsely claiming or exaggerating an illness you should investigate and gather evidence, reviewing self-certification forms/fit for work notes and then decide if disciplinary steps should be taken.
Our advice to employers contemplating how to cope over the coming weeks is to ensure you are up front and transparent about it. Engage with staff and take the opportunity to remind them about your policies and procedures, and ensure you are consistent in implementing them.