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HR expert Kate Palmer from Peninsula UK considers some of the HR issues which may arise around the summer holidays, from childcare to quarantining.
The summer months are edging closer and, in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the respective UK governments’ roadmaps for getting the country back to some form of normality, an increasing number of employees may be looking to book summer holidays around the same time as each other.
Specifically, England’s roadmap reads that, if coronavirus data proves favourable, all restrictions will be lifted no earlier than 21 June 2021. This means that most annual leave bookings may fall towards this period.
For an employer, their business needs will be a priority, as will their duty of care towards safeguarding their employees’ health and safety. Mental health has been a rising topic of discussion in the past year as the coronavirus has made lasting changes with regard to how we, as human beings, interact. Employers may feel inclined to grant leave requests at a time when relaxation and enjoyment are somewhat guaranteed.
However, when it comes to the business itself, employers will need to consider how an employee’s workload will be managed and how best to manage multiple requests around the same time. HR or line managers can assess the situation on a case-by-case basis to determine whether leave can be taken at any given time and by how many employees at once. They will also be able to determine the likelihood of work being reshuffled around the team when a member is on leave, or whether those going on leave can meet their deadlines before their holiday begins.
The arrival of summer also means that school will be out for some weeks. When the schools break up for summer, employers may find it difficult to manage a surge of holiday requests that may come in due to childcare issues. This should be dealt with as normal. However, if staff have exhausted their annual leave entitlement for the year, employers may wish to allow them to take unpaid leave, depending on their specific circumstances or to work from home if possible.
When it comes to employees holidaying abroad, employers should be aware that the devolved nations of the UK have each announced that international travel will no longer be illegal and is permissible under a traffic light system which carries different quarantine rules. Employers will need to consider if they can make provisions for other members of staff to take on additional work if their colleague is required to self-isolate for 10 days after returning to the UK from holiday.
The action that employers take now will determine how effectively they are able to manage annual leave this summer. Implementing or updating an existing policy on this can go a long way in making sure the business is well prepared, and it is good practice to seek advice on this to ensure that policies cover all bases and are easy to understand.
*Kate Palmer is Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula which provides HR and health & safety support for small businesses