By Amy Edwards, Brethertons Employment Solicitor
As the sun is finally beginning to shine, many people are beginning to make plans for the Summer months. Likewise, businesses need to start preparing too — the Summer often throws up a number of headaches for employers, and the better prepared you are now, the easier your lives will be come August.
As the summer approaches some of your team have secured Wimbledon tickets, some plan on taking a trip of a lifetime somewhere exotic or plan to spend 2 weeks partying in the Balearics, others have tickets to one of the numerous music festivals, whilst others are attending weddings, and the rest have children and need time off for childcare. What are you going to do?
If you accept all requests you will end up with a skeleton crew. If you refuse requests you are likely to end up with either disgruntled employees; a sudden flu epidemic; or worse still threats of sex discrimination! In any event, it is going to have an effect on productivity.
You need to take action now to think carefully about how to respond to holiday requests in as fair and consistent a way as possible, ensuring in particular that any decisions do not fall foul of discrimination legislation or employees’ annual holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998 or their contracts of employment.
You might consider adopting a traditional ‘first come, first served’ approach, or requiring all holiday requests between set dates to be lodged on or before a certain date to enable you to assess all the requests together taking into consideration the needs of your business. In addition you could consider limiting the number of days that any one employee is permitted to take offering an opportunity for all.
Whatever approach you adopt, you need to ensure that it is clearly communicated to all staff to avoid allegations of unfairness of arbitrary application.
So what happens when you refuse a holiday request, and then the employee is off sick? I am sure you wouldn’t be surprised to know that sickness absence actually increases during the Summer. It is important to make absolutely clear to your staff what your expectations are, and to remind them of your absence procedures, including whom and when to call in the event of sickness, and that any suspicious absences will be dealt with rigorously!
So back to those exclusive Wimbledon tickets that your top salesman has got — where did he get them? Or the employee that is staying in the luxury villa that belongs to your biggest supplier?
So what should your staff do when a client offers them a form of hospitality? Contrary to what most people believe, corporate hospitality has not been banned by the Bribery Act 2010, businesses can continue to build relationships with clients, customers and suppliers, but expecting an improper advantage in return is wrong and prohibited. Companies are vicariously liable for the actions of their staff unless they have adequate procedures in place and criminal liability for directors is a real possibility.
So businesses need to put safeguards in place now to ensure that staff do not fall foul of the legislation — this includes implementing a Bribery Policy if you do not already have one — or reviewing and reminding your employees of the policy that was introduced in 2010, but not been mentioned since.