HR expert Alison Schreiber, who works with many businesses in the East Durham area, offers some useful advice to employers who are preparing for a busy few weeks in the run up to Christmas.
The HR Dept Durham representative is urging businesses to properly manage their staff leave as many members of their workforce look to take unused leave this festive period.
Alison Schreiber Blog
Holiday calculations and management can be tricky at the best of times, but with the added challenge of coronavirus there’s more for employers to navigate this year. Particularly if your holiday year runs from 1 January to 31 December.
Usually, when following best practice holiday management, you would expect employees to have taken the bulk of their allowance by the end of your holiday year. Doing so ensures employees have adequate breaks from work to avoid burnout, and helps to keep staffing levels on an even keel.
However, 2020 has been far from usual and due to the restrictions placed on movement and travel, many people could not take the holiday they had planned. Even a staycation has not been so easy to achieve due to varying lockdown restrictions.
What you may find is that staff now have the bulk of their holiday allowance remaining, and are contemplating if and how they can spend it over the festive period.
Of course, you will also have plans for your business over Christmas. You may also have questions yourself on staffing your business.
Save time with holiday management processes
If you’re finding that employee questions regarding leave are starting to pile up, make your life easier by having one central point of knowledge: such as a company holiday policy.
An up-to-date and well communicated holiday policy can inform employees on important points such as: how to request leave, when leave can be taken, rules regarding unused leave and so on.
Another useful step to streamline your holiday management is to use HR software specifically designed to automate the process. For example, with The HR Dept Toolkit, staff are able to login remotely to see how much leave they have remaining, plus date availability for future requests.
When good processes are in place, they do the work for you. This leaves you with more time to find answers to some of the more complex queries that can arise.
Check your plans are compliant
The plans you have for your business over Christmas will be subject to any coronavirus restrictions applicable at the time. They will also be subject to employment law. So it’s vital to ensure you are well informed in order to remain compliant.
If you need staff to be in work
Your priority here should be ensuring you have adequate staffing levels, perhaps even additional temporary staff to cover for any unforeseen absences. In this case, contracts are a must.
If your existing staff are concerned that they will lose their outstanding holiday allowance due to the impact of coronavirus, their fears can be allayed. An amendment to the Working Time Regulations made for this exceptional year allows them to carry over statutory holiday allowance for up to two years.
If opting to cancel employee leave to staff your business at a busy time, you must give them the same notice as the days they would have taken. This would also be a good time to mention this new carry over option.
If you want to temporarily close your business
Whenever choosing to temporarily close your business, staff still need to be paid. One option may be to request that employees use their holiday at this time if they have it remaining, providing you give them the correct amount of notice. This is double the length of the holiday.
Remember, you must not furlough employees for the purposes of holiday so if you would ordinarily close down at Christmas time, then you should not furlough staff to do the same this year but, instead, follow your usual plans as you have done in previous years. This is complex so do get in touch if you need advice.
If you expect to be open but quiet
If you foresee not having enough work for employees because of the impact of COVID-19, but want to keep your business open if permitted, consider furloughing staff through the extended job retention scheme. Flexible furlough means that staff can still work part time.
Staff receive 80% of their salary for hours unworked which you can reclaim. If they want to take holiday during furlough, which is permitted by the scheme if they have days remaining, they are entitled to receive 100% of their pay for these days.
You can also request that furloughed employees use their holiday allowance during furlough, but be mindful of how this may be received.
Follow a fair and legal process
Whatever your needs are for staffing your business this festive season, it is important that you and your managers follow a fair and legal process.
Government updates in relation to COVID-19 tend to come thick and fast. If you need advice on the job retention scheme or staffing your business at this time, please contact us.