Summer is coming, which means the six weeks school holidays and the annual two weeks away in the sun. This also means that line managers are dealing with numerous requests for annual leave and they have the difficult task of trying to balance everyone’s request for leave and the needs to the business.
Ensure your summer runs as smoothly as possible by reading the below guidance from Bethan Southcombe, Head of Employment and HR Business Services here at Howells Solicitors.
Make a Decision About Requests Sooner, Rather Than Later
This is the time of year when line managers cannot keep their entire workforce happy. If they say yes to all the annual leave requests, then there will be no one in the business to deal with customer needs.
A decision needs to be made as to how many staff are required for the business to continue to run. Whilst skeleton staff may be fine for a week or two, is this something the business can sustain over the six week school holiday?
Managers should sit down now and decide the minimum number of staff that are required in work on each day to ensure that the business does not suffer. It is advisable to ask all staff to put in writing the dates that they would prefer to have as leave and in order of their preference. The manager should then sit down and work out what leave can and cannot be granted.
Managers, whilst their decision may not go down well and may upset some of their staff, must not delay telling their staff that they cannot have leave as they will need as much time as possible in order to make alternative childcare or travel arrangements. Managers should stand by their decision despite the protest that will no doubt ensue.
Make Sure to Review Company Policies
Managers will need to check the maximum number of days that can be taken in any one go. Most businesses state that no more than two weeks leave can be taken at any one time, it is therefore important to ensure that any leave in excess of this is not granted unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Over the summer holidays, this may be a time where it is more difficult to grant extended leave in order to ensure that all staff are able to take some leave over this period.
Managers are often worried about saying “no” to holiday requests but shouldn’t. Employees have the right to statutory annual leave, but the employer can say when leave can or cannot be taken. Some businesses have shutdowns when employees have to take leave, others may stop staff taking leave at certain times of the year during busy periods.
It may be that businesses can limit the amount of leave each employee can take over the summer periods or if they don’t want to put a cap on it, then they need to feel confident to say no if it is not going to suit the business needs.
What About Parental Leave?
Staff may also make a request for parental leave. Parental leave is unpaid time off, which (provided staff are eligible) will allow them to take up to 4 weeks per year (maximum 18 weeks in total before the child reaches 18 years of age) parental leave per child. This leave must be taken in a block of one week or multiple weeks (single days can only be taken if a child is registered disabled).
Many parents request parental leave during the school holidays in order to manage their childcare. Whilst the request needs to be properly considered, businesses can postpone a request for parental leave up to six months where the request may cause undue disruption to the needs of the business.
All best laid plans can fall through though. Imagine if all the childcare provisions are in place but grandma falls ill and she cannot help as planned. What can an employee do?
In this situation, you may find that a parent takes “dependant leave”. There is a legal right to reasonable "time off for dependants", which can give individuals time to deal with emergencies. This would be unpaid and would normally expect to last one or two days (or what is considered to be reasonable) so other arrangements can be put in place.
So, whilst you may have managed all your annual leave provisions and ensured that you have skeleton staff, thought also needs to be given to what happens if someone rings in sick or requires one or two days “dependant leave”.
What If Someone Rings in Sick?
So, the line manager has gone through all the leave requests and informed who can and cannot take leave, but what happens if a member of the team who was refused leave “phones in sick”?
All requests of leave and the dates which have been refused should be kept.
There may be gossip going around the office that someone is annoyed that their leave was refused and that they are planning on phoning in sick. It is advisable to sit down with the employee, in a formal environment, before the event and ask them whether the gossip that has been circulating is true. This may prevent the individual actually going through with their plans. It would also give the business a stronger position for disciplinary action to be taken on their return, if they do go ahead with this.
If an individual phones in sick, there are some steps that a line manager should follow:
- Always make sure that they speak with the individual.
- Don’t accept a message from a colleague or a voicemail message.
- If need be, ring the individual to see how they are and find out what is wrong with them.
On their return to work:
- Hold a return to work meeting with them, ask them if they are feeling better and what was wrong.
- At the meeting, review their absence records and discuss the impact their absence (on the day the holiday was refused) had on their colleagues.
- Ask them if they understand why the company might take the view that their sickness was not genuine, but try not to directly accuse them of not telling the truth unless there is clear evidence that this was the case.
Do You Need Legal Advice?
If you are having difficulty with an employee after informing them that they cannot have the leave they requested, or they have “phoned in sick”, please feel free to get in touch so we can advise you on what to do next.