No vacancies: What HR can do about the influx of holiday requestsby
The latest changes in travel rules may leave employers struggling to manage annual leave requests. Here are some ways to minimise the stress for everyone.
The Government’s recent announcement that travellers returning to the UK will no longer need to take a PCR test if fully vaccinated, has led to a surge in foreign holiday bookings, at a rate not seen since before the pandemic.
As the country begins to book holidays in their thousands, the knock-on impact on businesses can sometimes be overlooked. While these bookings have given the travel industry a much-needed cash injection, there are a few things that business owners need to be prepared for.
A tough time for all
These changes come at a time when many employers are struggling with widespread staff shortages. In the last few months, the number of people self-isolating due to the recent Omicron variant has increased dramatically. This, coupled with the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’ as well as staff burnout hasn’t made this time of year any easier for employers all over the country.
Employers should still remember to be fair and reasonable in their decision-making process and understand that this could be the first chance people have to take a foreign holiday since 2019
As a result, some company owners may be unable to grant all holiday requests due to the impact it could have on their business. It can be hard to say no to your employees, especially when you know how hard they have been working, but it’s crucial that business owners have a plan in place to avoid conflicts down the line.
What should employers do?
It’s important to remember that any decisions made must be in line with your organisation’s holiday policy, and consistent with previous decisions. If multiple requests come in from employees wanting to take the same time off, you should look at options that would enable you to grant as many requests as possible whilst keeping the business operational.
If you need to turn down a request for business reasons, make sure you have an open and honest discussion with the employee(s) involved to explain your decision.
Some businesses may need to have a cap on the number of people who can be off at the same time to ensure that minimum staffing levels are met. Similarly, there may be peak times of year where employers need everyone in. For example, over Valentine’s Day weekend, a hospitality business could have a blanket rule saying no annual leave is to be taken.
Employers should still remember to be fair and reasonable in their decision-making process and understand that this could be the first chance people have to take a foreign holiday since 2019.
Of course, there’s a risk right now that someone could come back from holiday with more than just a tan
With careful planning including shift swaps, overtime arrangements and alternative working patterns, it should be possible for most employees to enjoy their long-awaited holidays.
What if an employee catches Covid on holiday?
Of course, there’s a risk right now that someone could come back from holiday with more than just a tan – if an employee were to catch Covid whilst travelling, it would mean taking more time off work to recover. It’s important for employers to be prepared for this eventuality so they don’t get caught out should the worst happen.
If a member of staff does contract the virus, the process is much the same as if they had caught it at home. The first step is to assess how they feel as well and whether it’s practical for them to work from home. If not, subject to normal eligibility criteria, they would be entitled to statutory sick pay for any period of sickness absence.
SME’s can reclaim the cost of two weeks’ SSP per employee for Covid-related absences starting on or after 21st December 2021. This can be done through the Government’s re-opened Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS). Employers should keep in mind that SSP is payable from day one of Covid-related sickness.
Are these rules the same for those who are not vaccinated?
People who are not vaccinated are still required to take a Covid test in the two days before they arrive back in the UK, as well as booking and paying for Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests. There is the possibility of paying more for a private PCR test on day 5 which, if negative, can end the period of quarantine early. Unvaccinated employees will need to ensure that they factor this quarantine period into their holiday planning.
Remote working would enable the employee to earn their usual salary as well as causing minimal disruption to the business
What are the rules around pay during post-travel quarantine?
Employers are under no obligation to pay employees for periods of post-travel quarantine. If possible, for your business, it may be worth looking at remote working options. While it may not be ideal. it could create a win-win situation in a particularly difficult and complex time.
Remote working would enable the employee to earn their usual salary as well as causing minimal disruption to the business. This way employers can keep on top of their business needs during particularly busy times. Where this is not possible, you could also consider an extended period of annual leave or mark this period as authorised unpaid leave.
Interested in this topic? Read Three ways to engage employees with your new health and wellbeing strategy.
A thought leader on HR and employment law; Kate is the Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.
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