After the COVID-related uncertainties of the past year, the UK has greeted the arrival of spring with a giant collective sigh of relief that could probably be heard as far away as Calais. Lockdown measures are easing; children are beginning their return to school; lambs are once again gambolling in the fields…and Boris Johnson has teased the prospect of unrestricted international travel from 17th May.
While it’s still far from certain that we’ll all enjoy an overseas break this year, the prospect of sun and sea has proven enticing enough to create a massive surge in bookings. According to easyJet, flight bookings by UK customers for the 2021 summer season have more than tripled, while Tui and Thomas Cook both saw holiday bookings increase by five times.
While this is all good news for the travel industry, it may leave other UK employers feeling a little queasy. How are you going to manage the rush for the exits? We hope LeavePlanner’s handy guide will take away some of the pain.
What’s the policy?
It’s important that your employees understand their responsibilities. A clear annual leave policy will state exactly how many staff are needed at any given time, with special guidelines for peak periods. (For instance, a retailer might stipulate higher-than-usual staffing levels at Christmas.)
A well-drafted policy can also provide helpful guidance on how time off is to be allocated. ‘First come, first served’ remains the UK default, but it’s not the only option! You might consider drawing names out of a hat, or running a points system that references previous allocations.
Sort out your groundwork
Of course, your staff communications need to be in line with the law as well as your expectations. This is a good moment to review your contracts and ensure that they’re sending the right messages.
An ideal contract will clearly specify annual leave allowances, procedures for booking time off and periods of notice, all drafted with an eye to UK employment law. It will also spell out any ‘special arrangements’, including payments in lieu, that may apply within your business.
And there’s one particular legal point you should look out for, especially if you have contracts that have rolled over for a few years. Holiday ‘carryover’ rules introduced this time last year state that employees are allowed to carry over statutory minimum leave for up to two years if coronavirus has prevented them taking time off in the current leave year. It’s a good idea to spell out the implications of this new legislation, as some of your staff may still believe that failure to take a break by year-end will mean losing their holiday entitlements.
Softening the blow
Let’s assume that, despite the practical measures above, the worst happens, and you’re faced with a pile-up of holiday applications. How you prioritise those applications is your affair – but how are you to go about saying ‘No’ to the unsuccessful ones?
Such topics are outside the scope of a brief article like this, but we’d mention that flexible hours, homeworking and remuneration packages can all help hard-working employees retain their sense of value, even when they don’t get allocated their first-choice holiday dates. Since simple measures like these can make a huge contribution to the long-term wellbeing of your organisation, it’s handy that so many organisations have already introduced them as part of their COVID-19 strategy!
Switching to LeavePlanner
Of course, if you introduce policies of flexible hours or homeworking, a wallchart is no longer going to cut it as an organisational tool. Many UK employers have discovered LeavePlanner software to be an indispensable resource for post-COVID working arrangements. We’d love to show you how it can work for you.