Written by Joanna Dobie, Senior HR Consultant, Alcumus

We are in the holiday season and receive calls about different employee situations and how to deal with these properly and fairly:

I missed my flight, had to take a later one and therefore returned to work later than expected 

I had a call recently where an employee alleged that he was at the boarding gate ready to board his flight but then was not allowed to board so had to take another flight 2 days later. I believe this is called “bumping”.  He now wanted to take these 2 extra days as unpaid leave, not as holiday.

In this situation it is not just the reason for the late return that is important but also whether this employee contacted the employer at the time to advise of this potential problem as soon as he became aware of it. The employer’s contractual rules on absence notification are detailed in the employee handbook and should be consistently followed.

If there is no contact by the employee they are absent without authorisation (AWOL) and attempts should be made by the employer to contact the employee. Take notes of whether there is an unusual ring tone which could indicate it is overseas, is the phone ringing, engaged or unobtainable?  If you have their personal email, email them or perhaps their next of kin if you have that information or write to them.  Focus on their wellbeing but give a deadline for contact.

It would be useful to ask for evidence to back up this claim such as the flight booking. Holiday cannot be enforced by the employer as double the notice would be required beforehand as per Working Time Regulations 1998.  This extra time would be unpaid absence unless both sides agree to it being taken as paid holiday.

This could lead to a potential disciplinary if there was no evidence supplied and the employer had reasonable belief that this was not a genuine reason after an investigation to establish the facts. If colleagues said they knew of this employee’s intention to take extra holiday beforehand, if they asked for extra holiday but it was refused or perhaps if this employee has a history of this then a disciplinary could be warranted.

I became ill on holiday

In this situation medical evidence, ideally in English would be required to evidence this illness and the employee could potentially be given their holiday back. This is also the case if illness occurs immediately before a planned holiday, the holiday may need to be re-arranged.  This is based on established case law.

One of my party became ill on holiday

If a child developed chicken pox on holiday there are flight regulations that would prevent this child from flying home and therefore possibly the employee too. You would need to consider the relationship between the child and employee and the reasonableness of this situation.  This could fall under unpaid dependents care leave, s57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996.  Explanations would need careful investigation and possible mitigation applied but there is still the requirement for the employee to notify the employer.  The employee is expected to take all reasonable steps to do this such as meeting the cost of an international phone call.  If this was not possible then an email or text may be acceptable but would still need to be followed up with a telephone call as soon as is reasonably practicable.

One of my party died on holiday

Again some evidence of this claim should be sought if possible and this may fall under either unpaid dependents care leave or the employer’s own compassionate leave policy.

All situations should be dealt with sympathetically and carefully investigated considering any mitigating circumstances such as the location of the employee if abroad. This needs to be balanced with a requirement to apply the employer’s rules consistently with all employees.