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Taking holidays without permission

The classic scenario arises when an employee says that they have booked an overseas holiday and they must take it even though it leaves the department so short staffed that customer orders will not be fulfilled. How should you deal with this?

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The classic scenario arises when an employee says that they have booked an overseas holiday and they must take it even though it leaves the department so short-staffed that customer orders will not be fulfilled. How should you deal with this? The starting point is to make sure that your handbook and contracts are quite precise about the holiday entitlement your employees are entitled to, the procedure to follow when requesting and confirming holidays, and the circumstances that might arise where the company could suspend or cancel holiday. These documents need to be professionally prepared so that they cover all potential situations. So, you have your handbook and your contract, and an employee still insists that they are taking their holiday even if it means that there is no staff cover. They say that they have booked it and cannot cancel because they will lose their deposit. What do you do? There are a number of stages to follow: Meet with the employee and explain the situation in relation to the needs of the business and the fact that the correct holiday booking procedure has not been followed. Kind, proactive employers might even offer to speak to the travel agent to see if they can help in getting the deposit back. Following the meeting, you should send a letter to the employee pointing out what was said and, crucially, explain the consequences if the employee continues with the holiday. It is important that if you are looking at a potential dismissal you say so in the letter. Often it is best to have a follow-up meeting just before the holiday date to see what the position is: whether the employee has cancelled or they are still adamant they are going on holiday contrary to instructions and the holiday-booking procedure. Remind the employee of the contents of the letter sent. Document the meeting. The employee, technically, commits no offence until they take the holiday. When they do, they have failed to follow the proper holiday procedure and they have failed to comply with a reasonable instruction, namely, not to take the holiday. On their return they should be spoken to; if you are looking at this as being a gross misconduct matter they should be suspended on pay pending disciplinary action. A proper disciplinary procedure would then be followed and the outcome could be dismissal. It is essential, though, that you follow this procedure and seek professional advice in preparing your contracts and handbooks, as well as advice throughout the procedure to ensure that it is dealt with fairly and that the correct letters are sent out to the employee. About the author QDOS Consulting provides the FPB's 24-hour legal helpline. Click here to find out more about our legal expenses insurance package.

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