How can you support employees whose holidays abroad are being cancelled? 

As we have all seen, or maybe even been affected by the airline staff shortages which have caused cancellations and delays for thousands of people trying to go on holiday or returning from their holiday.

The situation is incredibly frustrating for employees and employers. People have been left disappointed by last-minute cancellations, while others have found themselves stuck at airports aboard.

As this happens, it leaves businesses feeling the strain as they are faced with trying to accommodate rescheduled annual leave and dealing with employees who have not returned to work due to be stuck aboard with no means of working. 

Many employers will have never found themselves in this situation before and be unfamiliar with what action to take in this situation so read on to find out more.  

Do you need to pay staff if they are stuck abroad?

If employees are unable to attend work, they are not entitled to be paid and the time would be classed as unauthorised absence.  Some contracts may state that the employee will be paid if they are unable to attend work due to circumstances outside of their control – but this would be rare and should be reviewed prior to deciding.

You as an employer have a few options. First, if both parties agree, and assuming the employee hasn’t exhausted their holiday entitlement for the year, time off due to cancelled flights could be taken as annual leave.

The second option would be to grant the employee the time off unpaid. Although there is no legal right to unpaid leave due to these circumstances, it would be a way to support your employees during this time.

The third option is for the employee to work remotely from abroad while they wait for a flight home. This would rely on them having the equipment to work productively, and this would be for the employer to decide.

Other options such as time off in lieu may be listed within your leave policy.   

Employees whose holiday is cancelled, are we obligated to let them rearrange?

Employees who don’t even make it out of the departure lounge or are informed prior to leaving may want to cancel their annual leave and take it at a different time.

Whilst employees can request to cancel annual leave that has already been approved, you are not legally obliged to agree to this, nor are you obligated to allow employees to re-book the holiday later.

To show support to your employees, given that the circumstances are out of their control, it would be reasonable to allow employee to rebook their annual leave subject to factors of how this may affect the business and other colleagues who may have annual leave booked.

If the employee goes ahead and re-books their holiday without having their request for time off approved and jets off regardless, this would be treated as unauthorised absence, which may be a disciplinary matter.

How can you prevent problems? Can you reject holiday requests abroad until the situation improves?

It has been said the problem is unlikely to be resolved this end of summer and therefore as a business you may be tempted to reject holidays abroad to this situation.   However, you must be mindful that while employers can reject holidays, they must ensure they do not deprive the employee the right to their holiday entitlement.

If you start to deny employees holiday, given the long period of non-travel due to covid, you may find employees become disengaged, take the holiday as sickness, or even look elsewhere for a new role due to their employer not being supportive.

Supporting employees during this period would certainly allow them to see how you as an employer are supportive during this period.

If you require any further support, please contact us and we will be happy to advice.