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Summer Season 2021 – tips to reduce employer headaches

As I write this , the government has announced that Portugal is being removed from the ‘green’ list of countries where there is no requirement to quarantine upon return. Knowing  your employees holiday intentions and the destinations they have chosen used to be a by –product of ‘water-cooler’ moments with your people. Quarantine was a word used solely in respect of far flung relocations like Australia and the heartache of placing a beloved dog in kennels for the mandatory period : now its front and centre in the minds of HR teams and employment lawyers as we all grapple with what the summer holiday season 2021 means for us all.

Even with the most cursory of glances, it is clear that summer 2021 has the capacity to cause potential strife and chaos across UK workplaces. The government’s traffic light system of ‘red’ ‘amber and ‘green’ applicable to foreign destinations sets out the guidance, testing and quarantine regime for each country. Currently, only those returning from the limited list of ‘green’ countries are not required to quarantine upon their return to the UK.

Having just spent a much needed week in Northumberland on holiday, I can testify to the benefits of having a break from the workplace. And whilst I have no desire for foreign travel during a global pandemic (my passport is remaining tucked away in a safe place for the foreseeable future) I do know that for some people, a foreign holiday with guaranteed sun is at the top of their wish list as we move out of Covid-19 restrictions. 

Holiday Planning and Policies

The pandemic has changed many things and its tentacles are reaching into employers holiday policies. You can’t tell your employees where they can go on holiday to, but it is really important that you get a handle on how you are going to deal with holiday request this summer and for once, knowing where your people are planning to holiday is going to be fundamental.

This summer you need to find out your employees holiday intentions to understand what this means for you as a business and to ensure you have a policy to help you remain ahead of events and avoid strife and miscommunication in your workplace.

There are many things to think about : from how will you deal with mandatory quarantine upon an employee’s return to the UK after holidaying abroad, to ensuring that you treat those who can work from home and those who can’t work from home fairly when it comes to quarantine periods.

If your average employee takes a two week break abroad, if that holiday will now require a mandatory period of home or government hotel-based quarantine, that means they will potentially be away from the workplace for an additional period of up ten days.

Can you deal with the risk of extended absences in terms of cover and resourcing – especially over the summer school holidays? What if the individual can’t work remotely? Will you insist they take this period as additional leave or as unpaid absence? What other impacts may your business face?

During spring 2020 at the start of the Covid -19 pandemic, employees could be forgiven for finding themselves stuck abroad as government advice was in a state of flux and changed whilst they were away. Summer 2021 in my opinion is a different kettle of fish entirely, with all parties being fully aware of what they have to do upon their return.  We all know that there is a risk that a ‘green’ destination country could change whilst people are away, so knowing how you will deal with an unexpected quarantine period impacting an employee will be crucial – for your business and for your employee.

Remote Working

We know that some employers have had to deal with the consequences of their people being stuck abroad after travel corridors closed unexpectedly, or that their employees are actively thinking about working remotely from abroad: these scenarios call for a policy on ‘Remote Working Abroad’. It’s also worth considering that some employees are desperate to travel abroad to see much missed family or as a result of a family bereavement : 2020 saw too many families separated from one another. How an employer deals with their people at times of personal crisis is so important, and your business should be prepared to flex your policy in such circumstance.

Annual Leave Entitlements

With the relaxing of the rules on the carryover of annual leave, many employees have built up considerable balances of leave. Some employees feel they don’t want to take leave if they can’t travel abroad. Some will assume their leave is automatically cancelled if they can no longer holiday abroad. It is worth remembering that the right to statutory annual leave is derived from  the Working Time Directive with the emphasis being on rest and relaxation away from the workplace. Making it clear that you expect employees to take a proportion of annual leave by a certain date is good practice in the circumstances and will go towards preventing burn out. We have all been affected to some degree by the pandemic and a recharge of our batteries and time with family and friends is crucial to our wellbeing. 

Many companies generated enormous amounts of goodwill over the pandemic as everyone pulled together and went to different ways of working almost overnight. Summer 2021 has many pitfalls and traps awaiting those employers who fail to plan and consider how they will deal with holidays this summer- getting it wrong will squander goodwill and foster unrest.

And Let’s Not Forget!

Finally, don’t forget the ‘normal’ events which can impact summer plans, resourcing and goodwill  : the European Football Championship starts on 11 June 2021 and end on 11 July with England, Wales and Scotland taking part and the Tokyo Olympics are set to go ahead from 23 July to 8 August. With an 8 hour time difference between the UK and Tokyo, sports fans will have to be awake during the middle of the night and the early morning to watch live action!

Lexleyton can help you to work through how to manage employees holiday plans for summer 2021 and ensure you have the right policies in place for your business to ensure you are prepared for, and can proactively address the impacts. For a free consultation with one of our expert employment law team reach out to us at legal@lexleyton.co.uk

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