In any normal year, it’s something of a national pastime to ask where friends and colleagues have been on holiday, or where they plan to go.
And yet, as we all know, joyful vacations were largely off the schedule for the majority of us throughout 2020, so it’s perhaps no surprise to find that many employees will have asked bosses if they could ‘defer leave’.
Some staff simply didn’t want to sacrifice precious holiday entitlement only to sit within their same four walls or wander to the local corner shop under lockdown.
Others may have felt that their personal circumstances – possibly including increased care responsibilities and anxiety over staying away from their own home – didn’t justify being considered ‘off work’.
As a result, it’s likely many businesses will in the coming weeks and months see a backlog of staff having a desire to take their allocated leave, particularly now that travel is beginning to look more achievable.
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Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed during the pandemic that the regulations will allow up to four weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next two leave years, for those workers who had not taken their statutory entitlement because of COVID, thereby easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.
This may indeed see a more staggered approach to leave requests in any one company, but the issue is still worthy of some consideration.
Employers should certainly ensure that they have developed a written procedure on how holiday leave can be requested, what notice is necessary, and the obligations of both parties.
This is useful for all concerned, particularly given the scope for a member of staff to find their booked holiday is rescheduled, or that they return and test positive for the virus, or simply need to quarantine under current or emerging rules.
It would be wise for any manager to instigate a full and frank conversation with staff about post-pandemic leave plans, so as to remind every employee of the need to give more notice than might have previously been the case.
This is particularly key for those returning from furlough.
Of course, employers will want to stress to their teams how crucial it is that the company is able to fully return to ‘productive output’, but there’s also a balance to be struck around wellbeing and appropriate periods of personal ‘switch off’.
Many staff have been working non-stop throughout the last year, possibly also juggling homeschooling and other family responsibilities, so in order to avoid burnout, it’s key that a manager leads by example and continues to remind employees that holiday is available for a reason.
Where staff seem resistant or reluctant to taking leave, it might be appropriate to engage in conversations about wellbeing, and see in what ways that particular employee can be best supported.
If you’d like to explore how to introduce holiday booking policies, or want to know how to manage staff requests for leave, our team are more than happy to assist. Please give us a call today.