Employers are likely to face two inevitable key issues during the season of good tidings. These are holiday and time off requests made late and fitness to work impaired by alcohol.
As most employers’ holiday year coincide with the calendar year and contracts stipulating all annual leave must be taken in the year it is accrued -with some exemptions- employers often find themselves short staffed during mid to end December.
So, how to avoid the problem? Firstly no employee has any right to a particular day off. As such, employers are urged to not only award leave on a first come first serve basis, but to also ensure holiday request forms are submitted providing ample notice to ensure business continuity. Many SME’s with no shut down periods agree and arrange department cover through team agreement made in the summer. However should an agreement not be reached… who has priority?
Good practice is to have all employees submit their requests before approving any specific application. Employers may use factors such as half term or who had time of the year before to ensure a fair approach is taken. It is important to also note that a request from an employee with children should not automatically trump one without. This refusal would not amount to indirect discrimination provided the employer has objectively reviewed and can justify the refusal.
Top tips are to ensure your contracts of employment stipulate the minimum of 5.6 weeks entitlement in each holiday year (pro rata for part time staff) and expectations in respect of working on Bank or Public holidays, and booking time off are clearly communicated.
In addition to last minute requests for time off employers may face issues with employees being unfit or incapable to work brought on by alcohol or illegal drugs.
It is good practice for employers to have a well-defined Health & Safety policy outlining their rules in respect of alcohol and drugs. It is often the case that an employee may have attended a party of some sort and consumed several units of alcohol. A standard request to ensure an employer’s duty of care is met and employees do not drive or work while impaired by alcohol, is to stipulate and communicate to the workforce the Company’s Alcohol Policy. The policy may outline that an employee while at work must be below the legal drink-driving level and as such notes it you are unfit to drive safely then you are unfit to work safely.
The golden rule is “Everything in moderation”.
Stay safe and Happy Holidays one and all.
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