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School Holidays and Parental Absence

School Holidays and Parental Absence

The school holidays are a parental absence nightmare for employees and businesses alike.

With everyone clambering for time off all at once, it can be difficult to know who has most rights and exactly how the holidays should be managed. On top of all that, you also need to keep your business running.

Don’t panic – we’re here to help with this question and answer blog that will help you balance everyone’s holiday needs and meet your employment law obligations.

I’ve Got Too Many Leave Requests – Can I Refuse Any?

Yes, you can. Although employees have the right to statutory annual leave, employers can say when leave can or cannot be taken, even for parental absence.

Some organisations operate shutdown periods when staff must use their holiday, often at Christmas or during slow periods, whereas other firms stop people taking leave during busy times.

Refusing a holiday request can cause disagreements with employees and has the potential to impact morale and engagement if not handled properly.

That’s why it’s important to ensure your contracts clearly include planned closures or times when employees cannot take time off. Your holiday policy should also set out any other rules governing holiday. For example, some organisations do not allow two people on the same team to be off at the same time.  

Timely communications will also remind employees to book leave in advance or retain enough holidays to cover any shutdowns or busy holiday months. This will help staff plan their lives while also taking into consideration the needs of the business.

Should I Give Parental Absence First Choice Over Holiday Dates During School Breaks?

There’s no legal obligation to do so and should you give preference to parents over non-parents you could face claims of discrimination.

To avoid this issue, many businesses have a neutral holiday policy that states leave will be granted on a first-come first-served basis.

This approach tends to work best for everyone as managers and employees can plan in advance. That inevitably means parents need to think about summer holiday childcare well in advance so they can get their requests in early.

Is Flexible Working An Option During School Holidays?

Flexible working allows people to work from home and/or work more flexible hours. Some parental absence may request flexible working to cover a specific period, like the summer holidays.

However, a flexible working request cannot be granted for a specific period: if you agree to the request (and there’s no legal reason that you have to), flexible working forms a permanent part of the employee’s terms and conditions.

Other arrangements, like a temporary change to working patterns, can be negotiated between the employer and the employee. For example, unpaid leave cold be granted if holiday has been used up or you could agree to a reduction in hours for a certain period of time.

Do I have to Give Parents Time Off to Spend With Their Dependents?

This is a tricky one and the answer is that it depends.

In general no, you don’t have to give parents time off to spend with their dependents. However, if there is an emergency, such as a parent’s childminding arrangements breaking down, they have a legal right to ‘reasonable time off for dependents’ to deal with the situation.

Some roles afford employers the opportunity to grant the option for a parent to work from home. While there is no legal requirement to do this, it’s a good way of keeping work progressing and your employee happy.

If this isn’t an option, you are legally required to give your employee unpaid leave. Normally this would be at least one or two days or whatever length of time is considered reasonable given the circumstances.

Alternatively, you can allow an employee to take paid holiday. This is particularly useful if the employee has accrued a large amount of leave that they need to use up.

Can Someone Take Parental Absence for Three Weeks?

If two parents need to cover half the summer vacation each, you may receive a request for three weeks leave.

This is perfectly legal as long as you’re happy to agree to the request. Some companies stipulate that no more than two weeks’ holiday can be taken at any one time except in unusual circumstances, like someone going on honeymoon.

If you want to limit holiday periods to a certain duration, you could see if it’s possible for the employee to split their leave so it does not exceed two weeks at any one time.

As with any holiday request, you are within your rights to refuse it.

There are many ways to deal with holiday requests at busy times of the year. Whichever options you take, try to be fair and consistent in your approach and stick to the guidance set out in your holiday policy.

Not got a holiday policy in place? Or got a tricky holiday situation on your hands? Then get in touch with Crosse HR today.

 

When Planning Staff Holidays Goes Wrong

When Planning Staff Holidays Goes Wrong

Summer doesn’t always mean sun but it does mean lots of holiday requests. Although planning staff holidays can seem like a straightforward HR activity, there’s plenty that can go wrong. Just ask Ryanair who had to cancel large numbers of flights after “messing up” pilot holidays last year.

Read on for the staff holiday management challenges your business is most likely to face and the steps you can take to ensure you don’t end up like Ryanair.

The Problem – Holiday Build-up

Allow staff holidays to build up and you’ll be saving up problems. No business can operate effectively if everyone keeps hold of their leave and tries to use it all at the same time.

While you don’t have to grant holiday requests, you also don’t want to disengage your employees by refusing holiday. Particularly if they have a lot to take and very little time to take it in.

Allowing large holiday balances to accrue also means staff will be tired, are unlikely to be performing well and could be at risk of burning out. All of which can lead to mistakes and disengagement which carry the risk of impacting your bottom line.

The Solutions for Staff Holidays

Good holiday management

Like any other aspect of your employee’s terms and conditions, staff holidays need to be managed. Ensure your line managers can easily monitor who has how much holiday and what’s been taken and when. Managers should also be aware of religious holidays for people of faith to ensure they know when to expect a glut of holiday requests.

Reporting

A good way to gain oversight of staff holidays and to support leader in managing this HR activity is to set up holiday reporting as part of your suite of HR analytics.

Run monthly reports on the number of days’ holiday:

  • due to be taken in the year
  • that have been taken to date
  • that have been booked in
  • outstanding

Create your report so you can identify the position for your business as a whole and by team. This will help your managers identify who needs to take more holiday and encourage them to book leave.  

Buying out leave

If employees have built up a lot of holidays it is possible to buy-out some of their leave. However, this is only possible for holidays above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks. Don’t forget that this should be the exception, not the rule as rested employees equal better performance.

With revised legislation around holiday pay, it could be worth bringing in an HR specialist to help you calculate the amounts accurately.

Carrying holiday over

An alternative to paying for holidays is to allow employees to carry over any holidays above the statutory minimum.

Be warned: this should be a temporary fix; if managers fail to manage holiday effectively the following year you’ll end up in a similar situation.

If employees are finding it difficult to take leave, you need to look at whether workload is preventing people from going on holiday. Alternatively, it could be a cultural issue where taking holiday is frowned upon.

Either way, you need to understand the reasons that leave isn’t being taken and take steps to tackle them.

The Problem – Too Many Staff Holidays at the Same Time

Another issue you might face is when too many employees are granted leave at the same time. This is particularly difficult to manage at busy times of the year like Christmas and the summer holidays.

It can be challenging for managers to reject holiday requests, particularly when someone has booked a trip or made a family commitment before agreeing their leave.

The Solution – Just Say No

Remind line managers that employers don’t have to agree to a worker’s holiday request unless the contract of employment says otherwise. For example, many firms require employees to hold back a certain number of days’ holiday to cover the Christmas period and of course these dates would have to be agreed.

Your holiday policy should clearly set out what happens in periods of high demand, for example, operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Managers need to put on a thick skin and be prepared to deny holidays when they don’t work well for the business.

Communicating clearly with staff well before busy holiday periods will help employees plan their leave more effectively.

The Problem – Paying Incorrect Holiday Pay

It might sound surprising, but failing to pay employees properly during their holidays has been one of the biggest employment law challenges in recent years.

Holiday pay cannot be calculated solely on basic pay: it must include a range of other items like overtime, commission, stand-by and callout pay, shift premia and travel allowances.

The Solution – Determine Your Holiday Pay Formula

To accurately calculate holiday pay, you should take the period before the employee’s holiday (usually at least 12 weeks) to identify a true reflection of their pay.

If you’re unsure whether a particular allowance should be included, the rule of thumb is to add it in. Of course, over a period of time, this could prove expensive, so you may want to invest in an experienced HR professional to help you legally calculate employees’ holiday pay.

Managing employee holidays effectively is good for the health of your employees and your business. Rest and recuperation translates into improved motivation and less sick leave. Which ultimately improves your bottom line.

So, review your holiday policy and implement the suggestions in this article to watch your business’ well-being soar.

If you need help creating, updating or managing your holiday policy, contact Crosse HR to ensure you’re treating your employees legally and fairly.

Unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal?

Unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal?

In this blog, we explore the differences between unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal and explain how you can avoid falling foul of either.

The intricacies of employment law often trip business owners up. And one of the most common hazards is dismissing someone in line with the letter of the law. There are two kinds of dismissal that sound similar but mean very different things and you need to avoid getting either of them wrong.

Isn’t Unfair the Same as Wrongful?

Not quite. In fact, in legal terms, they are entirely different concepts, as we explain.

Wrongful Dismissal

This happens when you breach an individual’s contract in the process of dismissing them. The most common breach is failing to give an employee the correct length of contractual or statutory notice.

When are employees protected?

Employees have this right from day one so you need to be vigilant from the outset of a new employment contract. If you cannot settle the issue via conciliation with HR support, you could be looking at a tribunal or court case.

Claims for £25,000 or less would be settled in an employment tribunal whereas those over £25,000, would require a county or high court action.

How much could it cost?

 Damages are not fixed. The figure will be set in reference to the individual’s pay and benefits for the period of their notice had they received it. This can include items like a company car, bonus, health cover and pension payments.

The more senior the employee, the longer their notice period is likely to be and therefore the more costly their claim. It’s also worth noting that it’s unlikely you will be able to recover your court costs.

On the plus side, employees are required to look for a new job as soon as possible. If they secure one and work during what would have been their notice period, their new pay and benefits will be taken into consideration. This could reduce the amount of any monies owed.

What can you do to avoid it?

 If you want to dismiss an employee, ensure you give them notice in line with their contract or statutory minimums. If you want the individual out of the business immediately, you could pay them in lieu of notice. This means paying them all their usual pay and benefits as if they had still been working up until the end of their notice period.

This is a very common practice and in many cases will be cheaper than paying court, salary and benefit costs. You’ll also save time and effort into the bargain.

What else do you need to know?

What constitutes wrongful dismissal is defined by referring to case law. This means that the most recent judgement on the topic sets a precedent by which wrongful dismissal is assessed.

As such, it can change form time to time so you need to keep abreast of any changes. Or work with someone who does that as their day job.

Unfair Dismissal

 Employees are protected by law from being unfairly dismissed. It’s a statutory right and is based on the employer’s reason for dismissal. For you to defend an employee’s claim you must show that:

  • the reason for dismissal is one of the potentially fair reasons listed in the Employment Rights Act 1996 including:
    • capability
    • conduct
    • redundancy
    • statutory illegality
    • some other substantial reason
  • your conduct was fair and reasonable in the circumstances, taking into consideration the size and resources of your organisation. This means:

Both these tests must be passed: if you dismiss for a fair reason but carry out the dismissal unfairly, you will still be deemed to have acted unfairly. The only good news in this scenario is that the amount of compensation might be reduced.

When are employees protected?

Except in specific circumstances, employees must have a minimum of two years’ continuous service to qualify for the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim. And it can only be pursued in an employment tribunal.

How much could it cost?

 Compensation is made up of a basic award (calculated on the basis of age, length of service and salary) and a compensatory award limited to one year’s gross pay or £80,541, whichever is lowest. This takes into account future loss of earnings and loss of statutory rights.

What can you do to avoid it?

If you have an employee who you want to dismiss, you need to tread carefully. The Acas Discipline and Grievance Guide provides step-by-step advice on dealing with challenging situations including capability and conduct.

If you find you have dismissed someone unfairly and you do not have a case to defend, you could reinstate or re-engage your employee.

What else do you need to know about unfair dismissal?

 Sometimes an employee will pursue tandem claims. While this will mean a more complicated case it doesn’t necessarily mean more compensation as an employee would not be entitled to double recovery for the same loss.

What’s the key takeaway from all this? Bring in an HR specialist early on if you’re thinking of dismissing someone. It might cost you a few hours of their time but it’s likely to be a lot cheaper and quicker than getting it wrong and having to pay compensation and undergo a lengthy legal process.

If you need further advice or information on unfair dismissals or wrongful dismissals, then please contact us.

Should young workers be paid the National Living Wage?

Should young workers be paid the National Living Wage?

18 year olds can drink, smoke and drive legally. Also classed as young workers, they can even die for their country on the battlefield. But when it comes to work, they don’t have the same right to the National Living Wage (NLW) as other adults.

We discuss the background to this issue and debate the pros and cons of bringing young workers’ pay in line with the NLW.

What’s the Deal for The Younger Generation of Workers?

The national minimum wage has been in place since 1999 with the aim of guaranteeing a threshold below which no person should be paid (except apprentices who are paid far less).

Many people felt that this legislation did not go far enough and campaigned for a National Living Wage (NLW). This new level of pay was intended to provide people with sufficient income to ensure a decent quality of life.

From 1st April 2016, the government made the NLW mandatory for workers aged 25 and above. This represented a 50p per hour increase on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) which was £6.70 per hour at the time for workers aged 21 to 24.

This handy table shows the current levels of pay for workers of different ages.

Source: Gov.Uk

This is an interesting state of affairs because equal pay for work of equal value and age discrimination are established in English law.

You cannot pay and man and woman differently for the doing work of the same value. You cannot discriminate against people because of their age.

Yet the government’s NMW and NLW policy clearly does both these things. Employers would be perfectly within their rights to pay a 24 year old the NLW when they’re doing the same job as a 30 year old who could be earning much more.

With the struggles young people face in terms of high rent, the difficulty of saving for a deposit on a house and the impossibility of securing a mortgage in a buoyant housing market, low pay is a pressing question.

The Debate – Should We Pay Younger People the NLW?

Pay Equity

If we said that all men could only be paid the NMW there would be uproar. That’s because we recognise that when two people do work of equal value, they should be paid broadly the same.

However, can it really be said that a young person brings the same level of knowledge and experience as someone much older? Probably not in more complex roles.

Yet in lower skilled jobs that can be picked up quickly and easily there’s certainly an argument against this. Surely a young, less experienced person can deliver the same level of customer satisfaction as someone older in a retail role for example?

It has to be recognised that the NLW is not the pay that an employer must pay: it’s the pay they must not go below. This means that businesses are free to pay all workers more than the NLW to making it possible to achieve pay parity.

In fact, a number of larger firms have said they are unlikely to differentiate pay by age for workers aged 21-24. This is partly on legal grounds and partly because they want to ensure good employment relations. And it’s also because they are uncomfortable with treating people in their early 20s differently from those in their mid-20s.

Cost to Business

Of course one reason not to drop the age for the NLW is the cost to businesses.

An extra £910 per year plus benefits and tax could be enough to push some businesses under. And it might make it less likely that firms would employ youngsters when they could get someone with more experience for the same wage.

Hile business considerations are one side of the coin, quality of life is the other. People in lower paid roles tend to have little if any savings should something go wrong. £910 a year to these people is a significant proportion of their salary.

The cost to Education and Society

It can also be argued that making young people too comfortable in paid work could lead to lower rates of further and higher education.

The NMW and NLW have been put in place to address exploitation at work without encouraging young people to enter the labour market who may otherwise stay in college or go to university.

However, this argument only applies to those aged 18 to 21, whereas there are lower rates of pay for people aged 21 to 24. Whether this is the right way to encourage young people to go to university is questionable.

Increasing minimum pay levels might be difficult but it is certainly possible as the introduction of the NLW shows. Whether pay rates are ever made more equitable remains to be seen but you can be sure that, if they are, businesses will be expected to bear the additional costs.