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Tag: Annual Leave

Air traffic control failure sparks travel chaos

The aftermath of the recent bank holiday (28 August) has resulted in a significant upheaval in air travel, with numerous passengers finding themselves stranded and several employees unable to reach their workplaces.

An extensive breakdown in air traffic control systems is believed to be responsible for the widespread problem, leading to the cancellation of over 1,200 flights.

The consequences have been substantial, leaving thousands of travellers marooned due to flight cancellations. The disruption has rippled across the travel plans of more than 200,000 individuals, causing substantial delays and cancellations.

Travellers have been cautioned to brace themselves for ongoing disturbances throughout the week. HR leaders have a range of options at their disposal to aid affected employees in these circumstances.

ConnectWise’s Chief People Officer, Jen Locklear, offered guidance, suggesting a considerate approach. In an interview she emphasised that days of work missed because of being stranded shouldn’t impact an employee’s annual leave. The foremost approach is to support them wholeheartedly and express gratitude for their dedication to the company.

Locklear advised HR to proactively assist stranded employees, acknowledging the likely stress they are experiencing. She recommended, “Begin by assigning a designated point of contact within the organisation who will concentrate on exploring alternative transportation options for the employee. This, at the very least, will help the individual feel supported.”

She further added, “Secondly, ensure that essential needs are met: confirm the employee’s access to food, accommodation, and personal belongings (or the means to obtain necessities in case belongings are inaccessible). If the stranded employee has dependents at home, extend assistance such as delivering food or arranging pet care and maintain communication with their family. This gesture will foster loyalty and contribute to a positive employment reputation and experience.”

Kate Palmer, HR Consultancy Director at Peninsula, a HR service provider, emphasised the employees’ responsibility to communicate with their employers if they cannot return to work as planned. Palmer noted, “In today’s world, nearly everyone possesses a mobile phone, minimising the possibility of an employee being unable to promptly reach out to their employer. Failure to establish communication could initially be treated as unauthorised absence, until the reasons for their absence are clarified.”

Addressing payment during such absences, Palmer clarified that employers are not obligated to maintain regular payment unless the employee uses their annual leave. She suggested, “The absence is likely to be brief, lasting a day or two. It’s advisable to find common ground regarding categorising the absence; an option could be agreeing on additional annual leave.”

“In instances where no other arrangement can be reached, unpaid leave is a viable consideration. Unless the employment contract specifies otherwise, there is no legal obligation to provide payment to employees absent due to these circumstances,” she added.

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Politician keen to better support employees’ work-life balance

Singaporean Member of Parliament (MP), Louis Ng, has called for the implementation of work from home (WFH) legislation and an increase in annual leave entitlement to address the country’s overworked workforce. In a speech to Parliament, Ng stated that these policies are necessary to improve work-life balance and reset existing policies. Singapore has been identified as one of the most overworked, fatigued, and stressful cities in previous surveys, making it crucial to address the issue.

Ng clarified that the WFH legislation would not make the arrangement mandatory, but it would grant employees the right to choose. Employers would still be able to require employees to work in the office for specific business-related reasons. Ng acknowledged the Tripartite Standards for Work-Life Harmony and the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements, but emphasized that they were insufficient.

During the pandemic, WFH legislation was implemented, which benefited Singapore’s transport and healthcare systems, as well as addressed gender equality. However, this has since been replaced by Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements, which Ng described as a step backward. He criticized the strange penalties for the guidelines, such as curtailing work-pass privileges.

Ng also called for an increase in the minimum amount of annual leave entitlement, citing the seven-day minimum as “extremely low” compared to other Asian countries. He recognized the need to balance the needs of businesses but stressed the importance of supporting the overworked workforce.

The Ministry of Manpower has stated that it has no plans to review the potential impact of WFH legislation but expects WFH arrangements to become more mainstream.

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As 75% of UK employees believe the workplace lacks an open environment to discuss infertility

According to the 2023 Workplace Infertility Stigma Survey by Fertility Family, there are widespread concerns that fertility struggles are hindering career aspirations, yet only 16% of companies have supportive policies for employees facing fertility issues. The survey gathered insights from 248 UK employees who had experienced difficulties in the workplace due to their fertility journey. The findings showed that just 1 in 4 respondents felt their company understood and supported them, while 1 in 5 feared their fertility struggles could negatively impact future opportunities.

The survey also revealed that only 1 in 4 people received compassionate leave or paid time off for fertility appointments. This news follows the release of a new Fertility Treatment Employment Rights Bill, which proposes a statutory right for employees to take time off work to attend fertility clinic appointments. The World Health Organization’s report found that 1 in 6 people worldwide are affected by infertility.

To better support employees facing fertility struggles, the survey found that 77% of employees want employers to offer flexible working arrangements to attend fertility-related appointments. Over half of the respondents believe that paid compassionate leave should be provided, and 41% agreed that financial support and fertility counselling should be offered to those undergoing fertility treatment. Additionally, more than a third of employees wanted line managers to receive training on fertility issues and how to approach such conversations with colleagues.

Kate Palmer, Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at Peninsula, advised employers to create a culture of open communication and support for employees facing fertility struggles. This includes introducing mental health first aiders or appointing fertility or women’s health champions who can be a point of contact for those who prefer not to discuss their struggles with a line manager or HR team member. Employers should also ensure all senior staff members are trained on how to discuss health conditions effectively and empathetically to avoid unintentionally causing harm. A fertility policy that incorporates support measures for individuals experiencing fertility issues can help affected employees feel more confident and comfortable at work.

Read the full study here.

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Only one-third likely to have a break before Christmas

One in three UK office workers will not be able to take any annual leave between now and Christmas due to staff shortages, according to The Annual Leave Allowances survey from Just Eat for Business.

In the survey, UK employees were asked how and when they utilise their annual leave, whether they are encouraged to take breaks, and how time off impacts their work/life balance.

Annual leave is essential for rest, relaxation, and re-energisation, but the survey results revealed that many workers are forced to ‘burn the candle at both ends’ due to understaffing.

According to findings, 21% of office workers regularly or always have their time off requests denied due to staff absences, and 16% repeatedly have their annual leave requests rejected to accommodate workloads. In addition, the research showed that one in three people are set to have their annual leave continually rejected between now and Christmas due to a lack of resources, thereby further depleting their work/life balance.

The trend is unlikely to change for the rest of the year, with many workers with children working hard to make up for drops in productivity over the summer holidays and ahead of the October half term.

A recent report listed labour shortages as the ‘most urgent problem’ facing the UK economy. Over a third of UK businesses regularly have to turn down work due to staff shortages, and this is projected to continue for the next two years.

The survey revealed that even when employees can get time away from the office, 25% cannot avoid working while on holiday, as they’re likely to be contacted to help deal with absences or work queries.

The lack of annual leave has also resulted in 16% of employees using their allowance to cover medical appointments.

The mental health implications are also great, with 44% of employees feeling burnt out at work, with a third finding that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is the most stressful aspect of work.

Will Foster, Professor of Leadership at Keele University, commented: “It’s essential that if the ‘espoused’ values of the organisation include employee wellbeing and restorative breaks, then leaders need to prioritise that. “

“Management must do the hard work of ensuring the structures, roles, responsibilities and staffing levels align so employees can take a ‘true rest’ when needed, regardless of the time of year and understaffing issues.”

Anni Townend, Leadership Partner, added: “Annual leave is an important part of a much bigger picture of looking after our life-work balance and of creating a positive work culture, particularly throughout the festive period.”

“The danger of not taking annual leave is that we lose our ability to switch-off and to disconnect from work. This can impact our sleep patterns and our ability to concentrate, as well as cause extreme mood swings and a weakened immune system.”

Rosie Hyam, People Partner at Just Eat, also commented: “Given the emphasis on employee well being and work-life balance over the last few years, it’s essential that employers are receptive to flexible working arrangements, and that they allow employees to take time away from work when needed.”

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50% of workers taking leave in December
According to the latest from CV-Library, a UK independent job board, Government’s advice to carry on with Christmas plans is welcome news to UK professionals.

The survey revealed that just over 50% of UK workers are planning to take time off this Christmas with 38.5% of those doing so purely to make up for spending Christmas in lockdown in 2020. Workers want to make the most of the festive season and spend time with family, friends and loved ones, having been denied the opportunity in 2020.

Of the 2,000 respondents, 74% reported that they are not offered any incentive to work over the Christmas period with 55% admitting that they really don’t enjoy working at this time.

Respondents were asked what the pros and cons were and CV-Library has exclusively revealed the results:

Worst things about working over Christmas (based on top three answers) 

  1. 77% Missing out on spending time with family and friends
  2. 22% Missing out on Christmas parties
  3. 22% Having to stay in the festive spirit, even though you’d rather be at home
  4. 20% Irritable/stressed customers and clients
  5. 17% Working longer hours

Best things about working over Christmas (based on top 3 answers) 

  1. 40% Christmas bonuses
  2. 33% Christmas music
  3. 28% A more relaxed working environment
  4. 25% Staff social events
  5. 4% Jolly customers

Secret Santa has also been impacted by the pandemic. A mere 27% of professionals say they will be playing the game in their workplace this year, with 23% admitting they used to, but have stopped since the onset of the pandemic.

Lee Biggins, Founder and CEO of CV-Library commented: “Profits are vital, but a balance is required. The commitment and efforts of staff are key to success, and acknowledgment of this has never been more crucial. With staff retention a big issue, and much movement predicted for the 2022 job market, staff need to feel appreciated, motivated, and able to enjoy the festive period this year, where possible.”

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Employees now legally entitled to carry up to 20 days leave to the next two financial years

Changes to working time regulations to help employers and their staff adapt to the coronavirus pandemic have been designed to remove the “use it or lose it” rush to take annual leave before the end of the relevant year. Many workers have delayed taking time off because of limited holiday options, being on furlough, fear of redundancy, working in front line roles or covering sick or absent colleagues – so they have accrued most of their annual leave.

Kate Jones, an employment lawyer and associate at Midlands firm mfg Solicitors, said: “The working time regulations have been relaxed due to Covid-19 and if an employee didn’t manage to take all their leave within the employer’s holiday year, they can now carry over up to 20 days to use over the next two years. This is a big change because, until recently, that annual leave would have been lost at the start of a new holiday year, unless there was a specific reason, such as sickness or maternity leave.

“With summer holidays abroad still uncertain for many people, it’s worth remembering you have the right to carry over your leave and don’t have to spend it at home doing nothing just to use it up, unless of course you want to.”

Ms Jones urged employers to actively manage the change in regulations to ensure it works for both them and their staff. “For bosses, this means they won’t have to deal with lots of their employees all trying to book the same few weeks off at the end of their holiday year the way they might have been had they all been due to lose it.”

Employers are still obliged to do everything they reasonably can to allow a worker to take as much leave as possible in the current holiday year and must not unreasonably block a worker from doing so. Ms Jones added that employers must also allow an employee to use their carried over leave at the earliest opportunity, but can also give notice to an employee to take leave to ensure it fits in with the needs of the business.

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