Employers need to clearly communicate their policies on holiday entitlement, unpaid leave and unauthorised absence to reduce the ‘summertime blues’ for those who are left covering for colleagues, says HR service provider Right Hand HR.
Sharon Riley, area HR manager of Right Hand HR offers eight tips to help organisations beat the summertime blues:
- Send a memo to all employees reminding them of holiday entitlements and how they can request time off. Clarify when holidays may, and may not, be taken.
- Encourage your managers to talk openly with staff about their holiday plans and, if relevant, childcare plans. Remind staff to book and take their holiday entitlement and if possible to spread their holidays throughout the year. Some staff may be unwilling to take a holiday because of job insecurity. However, they should be encouraged to do so for their own welfare and motivation.
- Ensure that managers arrange holiday cover amongst their teams, to avoid disruption. The covering staff should be adequately briefed beforehand and there should be an appropriate debrief when the absent employee returns.
- Implement flexible working practices, so employees can make up their work time or swap shifts if they need to be absent for any unexpected events or to spend time with their children.
- Understand your obligations when it comes to parental leave. An employee is eligible for parental leave if he or she has one year’s continuous service. Under the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, both parents have a right to 13 weeks unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child (18 weeks for disabled children). The leave can be taken in blocks of one-four weeks per year.
- Be clear on whether you’ll allow unpaid leave. Many organisations offer holiday entitlements on a first-come-first-served basis. However, requests for unpaid leave can arise if people are unable to take their preferred holiday dates. As an employer, you have no obligation to authorise unpaid leave. If you do choose to accommodate these requests, you should deal with them fairly and consistently to avoid any issues of unfair treatment or discrimination. Explain that each case will be judged on its own merits. If you’re not going to grant unpaid leave, you must confirm this in writing and notify the employee about the consequences that will occur if they subsequently take time off during the period requested.
- Do explain how any unauthorised absences will be dealt with. Highlight the key points of your absence procedure, who to ring, when to ring and sick pay entitlement. Make it clear that if there are any suspicions about an employees’ sickness, an investigation may take place and they may be asked to provide a medical certificate to support their absence.
- Ensure you have a policy on whether or not employees are allowed to carry over any unused annual leave. Always be consistent when applying this policy.