It is advisable for employers to have a policy about holiday. It is a requirement of s1 Employment Rights Act 1996 that there is some contractual provision over holiday but it is often useful if not essential for the mechanics of how holiday will work to be set down. This should preferably be in writing to avoid dispute later.
Typical topics to cover within the policy are:
- How much holiday can be taken at one time?
- How much notice is required for taking holiday?
- The procedure for requesting leave
- What happens to holiday at the end of the holiday year?
- How entitlements are calculated for part-time staff and for those that leave part way through the holiday year?
A holiday policy can cover a wealth of matters to help to ensure that the system runs smoothly. It is therefore interesting to read about Richard Branson’s decision to adopt a new “non-policy” on holidays. This applies to the 170 employees on his UK and US staff who can now take holidays for as long as they like when they like. Whilst it doesn’t extend to all the Virgin Companies, the only rule is that employees can take leave from their jobs when they like without seeking permission, as long as the timing of the break will not have a detrimental impact on the business. The assumption is that it is for the employee alone to decide if and when he/she takes the few hours, days a week or a month off as they are only going to do it when they feel 100% comfortable that they and their team are up to date and their absence will not damage the business or their careers.
Whilst ordinarily where Branson goes, people will follow, it is hard to envisage this working for most employers. It would be impossible to run a business day-to-day where you had no idea what staff would be in the following day. Most businesses require a critical number of staff to run every day to function properly. This is why many employers have a sufficiently detailed policy to ensure fairness and equality for all staff. If the time is paid, you can envisage a situation where some employees feel aggrieved by the amount of time being taken out by certain individuals particularly where they are left to pick up the work load.
It is however clear, that there is a radical move towards more flexible working arrangements and the days of the traditional five day week 9-5 are being eroded. The right to request flexible working is now available for all. Various forms of family friendly rights for time out of the business have been extended gradually.
Written by Edward Aston
2nd October 2014