Business

Will employers face holiday turmoil this summer?

PACKING YOUR BAGS: Where are you likely to be going on holiday this summer?
Andrew Lightburn

AS we approach the government's review of its travel traffic light system, employers will be bracing themselves for what this may mean for employee holiday requests.

As of May 24, the only major holiday destination on the Green List was Portugal, but it is likely other countries will follow when the list is reviewed later this week first. Spain in particular have been making noises they hope to be upgraded to the Green List. The addition of it or indeed countries such as Greece, Italy and France could well reignite interest in Northern Irish employees deciding on a holiday abroad this summer.

So, why is the Green List so important? Well, it means individuals do not need to self-isolate on their return as long as they take a Covid test before returning (and it is negative) and then pre-book a further Covid test for up to two days after they arrive back.

The other major holiday destinations currently appear on the Amber List. The major difference from the Green List is that in addition to the testing requirements, individuals will also be required to self-isolate for 10 days.

So, there is a possibility employees may decide to take that foreign holiday as countries on the Green List increase and this brings with it short notice holiday requests from numbers of employees wanting to get away.

Pre-Covid, employees will have requested their holiday leave months in advance but as the government's Green List changes by the week, notice from employees could be extremely short.

Employers will have to manage this but of course have the right to reject holiday requests. Furthermore, employers will need to be aware of the destinations where their employees are going as they would want to ensure that there are no issues such as self-isolation when the employee returns and to safeguard the workplace for other employees.

Finally, one issue that may continue to cause issue for employers is reluctance of employees to use their holidays (holiday hoarding). It is widely recognised holidays are important for employee health and welfare in terms of having a break from work.

This has never been more important following the pandemic and lockdowns over the last 12 months. There is great concern about employee 'burn out' and mental health generally and therefore employees should be taking holidays for the good of their health.

Employers have a duty of care over their employees and therefore employers should encourage employees to take their full holiday entitlement rather than hoarding. This will not only benefit the employee but the employer also who can reduce the impact of numbers of employees taking lots of holiday at the end of the holiday year and the effect this may have on operations. Some employers are introducing policies to require employees to take a minimum number of holidays during the summer months.

Therefore, as many employers emerge from lockdown and are perhaps bringing employees back from furlough, the holiday season may yet bring more turmoil.

:: Andrew Lightburn (andrew.lightburn@dwf.law) is employment director at DWF Belfast (www.dwf.law)

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