With a busy summer of sport approaching, your staff are sure to be competing to take holiday just when you need them most. Laura Kearsley explains how to deal with requests for time off
I run a busy operation and we are preparing for our busiest season. I have started to receive a great deal of time-off requests all for around the same time, as many staff have bought tickets or have volunteered for the upcoming Olympics. How should I deal with competing requests and what procedures should I implement to ensure we are adequately staffed while employee satisfaction is maintained?
The normal rules for holidays and absence will continue to apply during the Olympic Games. If you don't have a more detailed policy for booking holiday, this will be covered by the Working Time Regulations. These require employees to give adequate notice of holidays and allow the employer to decline holiday requests if not acceptable.
There is no legal entitlement to time off (paid or unpaid) for volunteering or charitable work, although some businesses have their own policies on this.
You should work out now what levels of staffing you require during the summer and decide how you are going to deal with requests for time off. Publicise your approach so that everyone has notice and the opportunity to submit their requests.
"First come first served" or "pulling out of a hat" are perfectly acceptable ways of deciding who gets the time off and who has to work. You will minimise ill-will if you let everyone know your approach in advance.
You should also think about minimising the impact on those working during the Olympics, perhaps by providing access to internet or television coverage at break times or allowing additional breaks for key events.
You may also like to think about whether there is any scope for people in some roles to work more flexibly, even if this is just a temporary measure during the Olympics. Working from home is not always an option for most staff in the hospitality sector but some businesses can use flexi-time in certain departments or roles, or change shift patterns.
It is likely that your workforce will recognise efforts you make to think creatively and give everyone the best opportunity to get involved and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event. This can only help with morale and productivity in the long run, which is particularly important in the hospitality sector where customer experience is so important.
Of course, not everyone can have the time off during this busy period, but these measures should help minimise any bad feeling and discourage any unauthorised absence or sickness absence where the employee is not genuinely unwell.
On that note, your policies and briefings should remind your staff of the consequences of unauthorised absence and the damaging impact that can have on the business, as well as the requirements for absence reporting that should be adhered to if employees are sick.
You have the right to challenge employees who take unauthorised absence, fail to report sickness or whom you suspect have not been genuinely sick. For example, an employee may have submitted a holiday request for the days in question which you declined and then they were absent and self-certified. Return to work interviews and investigatory meetings send a clear message that this is not acceptable.
â- Adhere to the approach set out.
â- Consider ways in which employees that want to can still get involved in the Olympics without this impacting on their attendance or performance.
â- Remind all staff of the consequences of unauthorised absence and your absence reporting rules.
â- Follow-up on any employees who breach the rules with an investigation and, if appropriate, disciplinary action in accordance with your policies and procedures.
Just remember that some of your staff will not be fussed about sport or the Olympics and may resent any "favouritism" that gets shown to those that are keen. Requests for holidays to attend the Olympics should not be treated more favourably than regular holiday requests and any flexible working arrangements or additional breaks should be offered to all staff.
Laura Kearsley is an associate at Weightmans LLPLaura.Kearsley@Weightmans.com