We’re approaching the time of year when a flurry of holiday requests land in your inbox. And this year there is more to consider than usual. Your decisions may depend on your staffing levels needed through an extended winter lockdown, holiday build-up, and considerations for those with young families.
Holiday Requests and Furlough
If you have any staff on furlough, you can ask them to take holiday days. Remember that you’ll need to pay them their full wage for any annual leave they make. And it might save you having a portion of the workforce all needing to use their holidays allowance when the pandemic is over, and the economy is opening up again.
Also, consider that staff can carry over up to four weeks’ paid holiday into their next two annual leave years. This should help reduce the risk of lots of staff needing to use their holiday all at the same time.
“Ensuring staff draw down their annual leave during periods of working reduced hours (known as ‘short-time working’) will be vital in managing staff costs, availability and morale over the holiday season,” explains HR Adviser, Anastacia Knight, “particularly given the increased pressures faced by businesses this year.”
You want to avoid a ‘use it or lose it’ rule as this can leave you open to disputes.
Considering Mental Health
We all need a break from work. And this year you’ll need to balance the needs of those who have worked through the pandemic with the needs of those who have been furloughed for some or all of the time.
For those who’ve worked through the year, it may seem odd to approve holiday requests for their furloughed colleagues. Especially when they might have had huge chunks of the year out of work anyway. But talking to your staff about your decisions will help them understand that you are considering the needs of the business alongside employee requests.
Those working may feel they’ve picked up an extra load. At the same time, furloughed workers will have experienced the stress of wondering if they are ultimately facing redundancy.
At the moment, the UK Government has extended the furlough scheme to all workers who were on the payroll on 30 October 2020, even if they’ve not been previously furloughed.
While this is great for keeping businesses alive, and people in a job, for those furloughed, it can mean an added worry about returning to work. And your employees still working may feel less likely to speak up in case they’re ‘rocking the boat’ when there are so few jobs around.
This can all add to the mental load of your employees. Stress and anxiety are two of the biggest factors in employees needing to take a sick day. They are less likely to focus on their work, lose sleep, and even start turning up late. Research shows that even some of your best workers can have lower performance as a result of stress.
And while you can’t resolve all your staff’s anxieties around coronavirus, you can keep open communication about what’s happening and why you may need to make difficult holiday decisions.
Fair Treatment of Holiday Requests
Overall, the best an employer can do is to treat all holiday requests fairly. If you give preferential treatment to one group of people over another, you may be at risk of grievances. As much as you may want to give workers with young children the chance to spend some family time together, you need to treat your staff equally.
For some businesses, they may be able to close or hibernate the company over Christmas week. If you can do that, then it’s good to let your staff know that they need to save holiday dates for this.
Yet, this year more than any other, it’s become harder to track all those standard HR things like how much holiday your staff take and what the monthly pay cheques are. With staff on different contracts, furlough, or maybe even going through the redundancy process. It’s important to keep a close tab on why someone may not be at work.
As a business, you need to keep your furlough records in case HMRC need to see them. But you should also keep track of who is off sick, on holiday or working reduced hours for any other reason.
Likewise, you want to avoid any presenteeism where your staff may feel not taking a holiday (or even working during their holiday) will make them appear to be better workers. Staff who regularly have excess holiday left to take should be encouraged to spread their holiday allowance throughout the year.
For more help with tracking your staff’s holidays and sickness, get in touch for a free demo of how our app can save you time.