Ryanair have recently hit the headlines for having to cancel flights over the next six weeks due to pilot shortages. Chief executive Michael O’Leary has admitted this has been caused, in his words, “because we’re giving pilots lots of holidays over the next four months. He went on to explain candidly ”What we have messed up is the allocation of holidays and trying to over allocate holidays during September and October, while we’re still running most of the summer schedule, and taking flight delays because of principally air traffic control and weather disruptions” A spokeswoman for the budget airline said Ryanair is preparing for up to €20m in compensation claims, according to Reuters.
Here are our top tips for effectively managing holiday so as to avoid unanticipated problems and liabilities for your business.
1. Assess the needs of your business
At the start of your business year, assess your organisation’s staffing needs. How many employees do you need in place to cover your likely workload on a month on month basis? Before agreeing individual holiday dates make sure you have enough staff in place as cover in order to avoid interruption to your business. Consider whether you have any especially busy week when no one can have a holiday, such as summer holidays and Christmas? Consider overtime and organising extra staff to cover for these peak holiday periods if necessary.
2. Plan for peak holidays periods
For the majority of businesses, summer and Christmas represent the peak holiday periods. Taking a summer holiday is traditionally popular. For employees with families and child care responsibilities, the school summer holidays represents the most likely period they want to take holiday. How are you going to cover for this likely two week period? Many employees also tend to save up their holidays till the end of the year either insurance policy just in case something comes up at short notice requiring them to take time off work or because they want to take the Christmas period off. So what will happen at Christmas? Can everyone be off? Can no one be off? Depending on the business sector you work in the holiday peak period may be different. For example for Ryan Air, it appears to be just after the summer when pilots who have had to work over the busy summer period want to take holiday.
3. Consider shut downs
Consider shut downs. These are a useful tool for ensuring your workforce uses up its holiday entitlement during the current holiday year. Many companies shutdown for at Christmas for example as it is traditionally a quiet period. Other companies shut for a week or two during the summer for much the same reason to coincide with the bank holiday periods.
4. Monitor and Record Holiday Bookings
Your business needs to have in place a mechanism recording all staff holiday requests so that you can readily and properly assess if you can allow or decline a holiday request against the staffing needs of the business. A holiday year planner, represents a simple and relatively inexpensive solution allowing you to record an individual employee’s holiday requests and allowing you to see at a glance how much holiday who else is off that day in terms of assessing the needs of the business and how much holiday entitlement the applicant has left before agreeing it. For larger organisations there is specialist HR software that can greatly assist with effective holiday planning.
5. Have an Annual Leave Policy
We recommend your business ought to have fair and comprehensive policy in place to ensure that staff understands the rules and procedures when it comes to taking annual leave entitlement and what is expected of them in applying for holiday. This can be in the form of either a standalone policy or included as part of a raft of employment policies in the organisation’s staff handbook. Either the policy can be made available on request or included on the organisation’s intranet for easy access.
Here at iiLaw we have over 20 years of experience advising employers in relation to holiday issues, including drafting holiday policies and procedures. Please call the author of this article, Julian Cox who heads iLaw’s employment team to discuss on 0207 489 2059 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.