An Employers Guide to Summer Holidays
With the summer holidays just around the corner, balancing work and childcare for 6-7 weeks can be quite an overwhelming prospect for both employers and employees with childcare responsibilities. It is important that employers ensure that the necessary policies, practices and cover are in place to support both the business and staff.
One way that employers may wish to do this is through adopting a flexible working attitude. Where possible, arranging for staff to work different work patterns to accommodate childcare responsibilities can be extremely helpful. However, if this isn’t an option, employers may find themselves with annual leave requests at either short-notice or in abundance. Whilst there is no obligation to approve annual leave at particular times, it is recommended that employers have an annual leave policy in place that stipulates how annual leave requests will be assessed so that all staff are aware in advance to reduce bad feeling. In the event that employers have accommodated as much annual leave as the business physically can, one idea could be to encourage staff to communicate with each other in the prospect of arranging shift-swaps or cover.
Sometimes, employers may be suspicious of sickness absence especially where preceding the absence, a request for annual leave was made for the same period of time. In this event, taking action may be quite difficult, especially where you don’t have necessary proof. If you hear a rumour that an employee may be planning to take sick leave and hasn’t yet done so, you may wish to tackle the issue by raising it with the employee informally. This may let the employee know that you are aware of their potential plans which may be enough to deter them.
If you are planning to tackle this issue following a period of sickness absence of which you are suspicious about, the best course of action is to arrange a return to work interview once they’re back in work. During the interview, ask the employee the reason for their absence and if necessary request medical evidence where the absence was for more than 7 days. If you have reasonable belief that the illness was not genuine, for example, if they are now sporting a skin shade that is several shades darker than when they were last in work, then depending on your absence policy, you may be able to treat the absence as unauthorised absence and take disciplinary action against the employee. A reasonable investigation will be required. Going forward, employers should track and review absence records to assess whether there are any patterns that are forming that may need to be discussed with the employee.
Sickness Absence During Annual Leave
There may also be sickness absence concerns where the employee was due to take annual leave. In this instance, the employee may request that they are paid for sick leave (either Company Sick Pay or Statutory Sick Pay depending on your Sick Pay policy) and reclaiming the period of annual leave to be used at another time. Again, an employer may have concerns regarding the legitimacy of this illness, especially where Company Sick Pay is available. However, employees are entitled to request that their time off be regarded as sick leave rather than annual leave, so long as they follow the sickness reporting procedure and employers that are suspicious will again need to conduct a thorough investigation and have reasonable belief that the employee has been dishonest in order to pursue disciplinary action.
The main factor to consider in anticipation of the summer holidays is communication. Clear policies that are communicated effectively can help to reduce potential issues occurring. In preparation for the summer holidays, employees should be aware of all of the potential support available to them and the potential consequences for the employee, the team and the business should be highlighted to reduce the chance of dishonesty. Additionally, communication where suspicions are present can help to clear up and clarify issues where the employee’s sickness was in fact genuine. In the case of potentially unauthorised absence, confronting the matter rather than avoiding it can help to deter the employee from repeat occurrences or allow for disciplinary action to be taken.