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UK Summer: Potential HR challenges for employee leave

With national lockdown restrictions beginning to ease and a newly introduced traffic light system of rules for international travel, managing annual leave could become a major challenge for HR professionals to navigate

Potential HR challenges for Employee Leave

During the Covid-19 crisis, the government announced furloughed workers would continue to accrue statutory holiday whilst on the scheme, and allow untaken statutory holiday for all employees to be carried over for two years to prevent industries from becoming short-staffed. But managing headcount is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential leave issues employers may face this summer.

Common challenges that HR professionals may encounter:

  • Employees required to self-isolate on return from a foreign holiday for up to 10 days (depending on the destination this might be at home or in a quarantine hotel)
  • A surge in holiday requests over a short period of time with some involving last-minute notice
  • Employees unable to return home due to flight cancellations because of changing travel restrictions
  • Annual leave request cancellations due to holidays being postponed
  • Furlough requests over school holidays

Where possible, employers should take a sympathetic approach and not reject annual leave requests without speaking with their members of staff first. You should consider whether your company can accommodate periods of self-isolation, such as allowing employees to work remotely – from home or a quarantine hotel. If remote working is not an option, other possibilities include employees using annual leave to take this period as holiday – depending on whether the organisation can accommodate this length of leave.

Communicate your holiday policy with employees so the rules are clearly set out and shared with the entire workforce. Within your policy you can include situations in which holiday requests cannot be accommodated for operational reasons (e.g., too many staff on annual leave), and sufficient notice period requirements. You do not have to agree to an employee’s request to cancel holiday already booked, unless they have the right under their contract of employment or another agreement. However, it may be good employee relations to be flexible with annual leave requests in these uncertain times.

With the 21st June ‘Freedom Day’ delayed, it is likely that most employers will have at least some of their workforce working from home over the summer months. By entering a hybrid working arrangement or allowing employees to make use of flexible working will help support working parents and provide an improved work/life balance. The government’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) makes clear that furlough is an option when an employee has childcare problems – however the decision is ultimately one for the employer.

To discuss your options when addressing challenges with annual leave, you can speak to one of our HR advisers today.

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