July 19, 2022

How should employers handle unplanned absence in challenging times?

Unplanned absence in challenging times

How should employers and HR managers handle unplanned absence during the current challenges facing British travellers and holiday makers during the summer months? 

After two years of COVID restrictions, the UK public are looking forward to taking summer holidays abroad again. However, several issues are making travel this summer a huge challenge for holiday makers, including lengthy airport queues, cancelled and delayed flights and even trains and other transportation affected by strikes and staff shortages. Recent reports state national transport unions and airports have told anyone planning to travel to expect the chaos to continue for at least a few months. 

With so many travel plans disrupted, your employees may be affected – in fact, you may know someone who’s already experienced it. So, as an employer what can you do to help, and what are your legal obligations?

What should I do if employees are unable to return to work on time?

You may have employees who are no longer returning from holiday on the date they expected and will consequently be absent from work. Unplanned absence is a challenge to manage at the best of times. So, what are your rights and how can you manage this as an employer?

Emergency holidays and unpaid leave

When affected employees return to work, the first question they are likely to ask is: “Will I be paid for the days I was stranded abroad?”

There is no legal obligation to offer paid time off in these circumstances. However, as an employer you may wish to offer this as a one off. Make it clear to all employees that this is a gesture of goodwill in an exceptional circumstance.

Typically, in situations like these, employees are expected to take emergency holiday leave. This would be deducted from their available annual leave allocation for that holiday year.

You may also want to offer unpaid leave for any additional leave your employees may require.

Next steps

Whatever option you choose ensure you communicate these with your employees. In exceptional circumstances like this, the simple things mean a lot.

If you’re a Moorepay customer and would like advice on managing employees who are affected by this, you should contact our advice line on 0345 073 0240.

You can also read more about absence management in our holiday entitlement Q&A article and our unauthorised absence article.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.

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